Assessing Your Fitness Level For Safe Exercise

What does assessing your fitness level mean and why is it important?

It’s evaluating your current fitness level and finding out how your body reacts to withstanding a particular physical workload, and how long it takes to recover.

Think about how you see one person your age easily run a few miles every day, and others aren’t even able to walk a few minutes.

Their personal fitness level is what makes the difference.

If your goal is to improve your fitness level, preventing weight gain, enjoying better health, or just lowering your cholesterol levels-regular exercise is where it all begins.

However, if your body isn’t up to the stress of exercise and you don’t know it, you could cause yourself even more problems?

We have all heard about or known someone that had a heart attack taking out the garbage or shoveling snow, right?

Part of that comes from simply not realizing how low our fitness level is, or how far out of shape we’ve become.

It’s easy to spend years on the sofa, and still have the idea that you have a body of an eighteen year old.

Chances are, you don’t?

Why It’s Important To Assess Your Fitness Level

Even if you don’t have anything so serious as a sudden heart attack while running for exercise, there’s another problem.

Starting out from the sofa like your muscles are in great shape, when they’re not, can sideline you for weeks just trying to recover.

The majority of the population never engages in any type of exercise.

Most of that group relies on the idea that they are fit and healthy without exercising on purpose. The rest of them just hate the thought of physical activity to the point that they avoid it no matter how poor their fitness level.

Is It Safe To Start Exercising?

If you are aware that you need to make some lifestyle changes that includes adding low impact exercise, and wondering if it’s safe to get started, read on.

The first logical step to starting any exercise program is assessing your fitness level. And you can make that assessment without any special machines or equipment.

Components of Fitness

Before you can determine what fitness level you are in you must first test your body in each fitness component.

There are five components to take into consideration when evaluating you fitness level. These components are:

  1. Cardiovascular (aerobic) EnduranceCardiovascular endurance refers to the ability of your heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to the tissues and muscles throughout your body. It also correlates with the ability of these tissues and muscles to utilize the oxygen they are given.
  2. Muscle strength (hypertrophy)Muscle strength measures the amount of force generated by performing an action.
  3. Muscle Endurance– Muscle endurance refers to the muscles ability to perform repeated actions without becoming fatigued.
  4. Flexibility– Flexibility measures each individual joints ability to perform full range of motions.
  5. Body Composition– Body composition refers to the make-up of your physical body. This includes height, weight, bone structure and water/muscle/fat percentages.

Ways to Test Each Fitness Components

  • Cardiovascular Endurance- There are several ways to test cardiovascular endurance. These include the Vo2 Max, Mile Run/Walk, PACER, and standardized table measurements.

    If you have access to trained personnel and the right equipment the Vo2 Max is the best test. Most people, however, opt to do the Mile Run/Walk test.

    For this test you measure the amount of time it takes you to complete the mile and compare it to a statistic table for your age and sex.
  • Muscle strength– Muscle strength can be tested in a few different ways. When performing these tests, each muscle is tested separately.

    A maximal strength tests (One Rep Method or 1RM) is used to determine the maximum amount of force a muscle can generate with a single action. Some prefer a 10-repetition test (10RM).

    This tests measure whether or not a given muscle can repeat a specific action 10 times. Muscles on both sides of the body can be compared to assess muscular balance.
  • Muscle Endurance– Muscular endurance, like muscle strength can be assessed using the 1RM and 10RM.

    In addition to theses tests muscular endurance can also be assessed using the Batter Test Method, the Absolute Muscle Endurance Test and calisthenic exercises.

    Calisthenic exercises are the most commonly used as it evaluates both physical endurance and body mass. The most common calisthenic exercises tested are push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups.

    The test involves the number of completed actions in a set amount of time and comparing the result to a statistic table for your age and sex.
  • Flexibility– There are main categories of flexibility tests. These are the Indirect Method and the Direct Method.

    The Indirect Method involves taking linear measurements of distances between segments or from an external object.

    The Direct method are generally conducted with the use of a Goniometer or Flexometer.

    These test measure angular displacements between adjacent segments or from an external reference point. The most commonly used flexibility test is the Sit and Reach Test (an Indirect Method).
  • Body Composition- A Dexa scan is the most accurate for assessing body composition.  As it is costly and hard to locate facilities that can perform the scan one of the many alternative methods is ideal. 

    For alternative ways to assess your body composition please read 5 Ways to Assess Body Weight.

Exercises To Improve Your Fitness Level

  • Cardiovascular Endurance- Walking, jogging, swimming laps, cycling, and aerobics
  • Muscle strength– Weight training, power lifting, compound exercises, body-weight exercises.
  • Muscle Endurance– Cardiovascular exercises, any weight training exercises, and interval weight training.
  • Flexibility– Strength training, yoga, and pilates.
  • Body Composition- Any exercise.

Your fitness level is determined by evaluating all of the fitness components and seeing how you rank against the norms for your age and rank in any given activity.

Don’t overlook the fact that a health professional should be consulted before you begin any weight loss program or fitness regimen.

A fitness professional can also be consulted to help evaluate your fitness level and advise on the right starting point for an exercise routine.