By: Jennifer Macko, University Health Center, Peer Educator; University Recreation & Wellness, Fitness Instructor
Have you ever wondered how “in shape” you are? Fitness can be hard to measure because there are so many different measurement strategies out there.
I am going to introduce you to four dimensions of physical fitness measurement: body composition, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.
Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body. BMI (Body Mass Index) is an indirect way to measure body composition and is based on mass and weight.
For both gender and age, there are guidelines for what is considered underweight, healthy, and overweight. Both ends of the spectrum are associated with negative health consequences. For those in the underweight category, eating disorders, bone loss, and hormone imbalances can be present. On the other end of the spectrum, having a BMI over 30 kg/m makes a person more susceptible to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack, and stroke.
Keep in mind that BMI does not account for body type. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his prime, would likely have had a BMI within the obese range, even though his body fat was most likely in the single digits.
If you are very muscular, take your BMI calculation with a grain of salt or consider signing up for a BodPod test.
BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese
Calculate BMI on your own:
Use the equation:
BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703
Sign up for a fitness assessment and take advantage of the state of the art “BodPod” to measure body composition. The BodPot uses “air densitometry” to estimate your percentage of body fat and lean body mass (fat free mass).
Cardiovascular fitness refers to how well your heart, blood cells, and lungs supply oxygen-rich blood to your muscles when you move. It is also how well your muscles are able to use this oxygen to produce energy for movement.
Test cardiovascular fitness on your own:
Use an online calculator following the Rockport Walking Test to estimate your VO2max. This test is less accurate and not ideal for people under 26 years of age who are generally of high cardiovascular fitness.
A RecWell fitness assessment includes a test for cardiovascular fitness. On a cycle ergometer (aka a stationary bike), a personal trainer will run you through a submaximal VO2 test.
This test is a reflection of how efficiently your body is able to use oxygen. Generally, the higher your cardiovascular fitness, the higher your VO2, and the greater your capacity to do aerobic activities
The submaximal exercise test can give you a general picture of your cardiovascular health. Though it may not be as accurate as an absolute VO2max test, you can get an idea of how aerobically fit you are.
To work on your aerobic fitness, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week for heart health and fitness maintenance. If you are not quite there, try to add 15 minutes to your weekly routine, little by little.
Strength is a little less cut and dry than aerobic ability when it comes to analyzing your fitness. This is because you can train with three different purposes:
- Endurance– how many times/how long you can repeat the exercise
- Strength– how much you can lift
- Hypertrophy– muscle growth, an increase in size (muscle fiber diameter)
Measure strength on your own:
A great way to test your strength and build your weightlifting routine is to figure out your 1 rep max, the largest amount of weight you can lift in one repetition.
To do this: choose a weight you can lift 1-12 times, and lift it until you can repeat no more.
Calculate your 1RM based on the number of repetitions you can complete:
1 = 100% of your 1RM,2 = 95%, 3 = 90%, 4 = 88%, 5 = 86%, 6 = 83%, 7 = 80%, 9 = 76%, 10 = 75%, 11 = 72%, 12 = 70%
For example, I lift 6 repetitions of 100 pounds; 100 pounds is 83% of my 1RM, so 100% of my 1RM is 100/.83 = 120.5 pounds.
Use your calculated 1RM to build your training plan:
- For Endurance Training, lift less than 50% of your calculated 1RM, do 15-20 repetitions, and complete 1-2 sets.
- For Strength and Hypertrophy, lift 60-80% of your calculated 1 RM, do 8-12 repetitions, and complete 2-4 sets.
A RecWell fitness assessment includes tests for strength.
Flexibility is one of the more ignored aspects of fitness, but it is extremely important for injury prevention and joint health. Stretch after workouts to reduce muscular soreness and improve recovery as well as improve your range of motion.
Not only does stretching do wonders for your joints, muscles, and posture in general, but it can be a great stress reliever. If you have trouble stretching on your own, stop by Functional Training Studio in the Eppley Recreation Center and try out the foam rollers or take a yoga class.
Measure flexibility on your own:
Try out these three stretches and see where you currently are with your flexibility.
A RecWell fitness assessment includes tests for flexibility.
Benefits of improving your flexibility:
- Decrease your muscle stiffness and increase range of motion.
- Reduce your risk of injury.
- Help relieve post-exercise aches and pains.
- Improve your posture.
- Reduce or manage your stress.
- Reduce muscular tension and enhance muscular relaxation.
- Improve mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance.
- Prepare your body for stress of exercise.
- Promote circulation.
- Decrease your risk of lower-back pain.
Source: ACE Fitness
Whether you’re trying to make a change in your exercise routine, form a brand new fitness plan, or just get a sense of where you stand with you fitness, consider using some of these tried-and-true fitness measurements to assess and track your progress!