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What Are Fitness Assessments?
Do you think you're fit? More importantly, do you think you're more fit now than you were a month ago? How about a year ago? It's important to not only monitor your fitness today but to set goals and try to improve your fitness in the future.
How can you do that? Well, you can use fitness assessments to measure various aspects of your body and its abilities. A fitness assessment identifies your current fitness levels and serves as a baseline, or starting point of your body's fitness. You can use this fitness assessment to figure out your training needs and goals. You then compare your progress over time to the initial fitness assessment.
Height & Weight
The fitness assessment should include the measurement of your height and weight. Height and weight is the starting point that helps establish whether or not you need to lose weight based on your height, and if so, how much. You can implement new diet and exercise plans if you weigh too much. You can then track these changes over time to see if you are progressing accordingly.
BMI & Body Composition
Height and weight measurements are also needed to determine your BMI, or body mass index. The easiest way to measure BMI is by plugging in your height and weight measurements in an online BMI calculator. The number that pops out is your BMI: a measure of body fat that helps determine if you are normal weight, underweight, overweight, or obese. Monitoring your weight and BMI can help you gauge how well you are progressing in your training or diet modification program over time.
A measurement similar to BMI is the measurement of body composition, or the ratio of lean body mass to fat mass. This is often performed with skin fold measurements, although some digital means are available. This helps you better understand how much of your weight is muscle mass versus fat. For example, you may weigh a lot (which will push up your BMI score) but your higher weight could reflect the fact that you have a lot of lean muscle as opposed to fat. This means that, although your BMI score would skew high, your body composition measurement, which considers your lean muscle mass, is the more relevant assessment when determining your proper diet and exercise plan.
If you have a lot of lean muscle mass, you may not have to worry as much about counting calories as someone with a lot of fat. In fact, you may need to consume a lot of calories just to maintain that muscle mass, especially if you are an athlete.
You are more likely to have a lot of lean muscle if you perform a lot of cardio, which is short for cardiovascular exercise. Cardio is any aerobic exercise, like running, swimming, or biking, which gets the blood circulating through your body while getting your heart rate up. If you do a lot of cardio, you are more likely to have a lower resting heart rate compared to a person who is not as fit. Your heart rate, or pulse, is how many times your heart beats in one minute. A true measure of your resting heart rate is best determined after you've awoken after a good night's sleep and before you've gotten out of bed. A very high resting heart rate may be an indicator of stress, poor cardiovascular fitness, or a more serious medical condition.
Another assessment of your cardiovascular health is your blood pressure. Just like with your resting heart rate, consistent exercise helps to lower blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mm Hg. Put simply, blood pressure is a measure of the force of the blood on the arteries as it gets pumped out of the heart. High blood pressure indicates that the force is too great. High blood pressure that is not controlled could result in weakened arteries, which could lead to other problems. High blood pressure should be brought under control with proper diet, exercise, and sometimes medication.
Other Fitness Tests
Tied in to cardiovascular fitness is an assessment called the step test. This test measures your aerobic fitness as you step on and off a 12-inch step for three minutes straight. This test measures how quickly your heart rate returns to normal after performing the test. The better your cardiovascular fitness, the faster your heart rate will come back down to normal after exercise.
Two other fitness assessment tests that are well known are the sit-up test and push-up test. Both of these tests are measurements of muscle strength and endurance. These tests measure how many sit-ups and push-ups you can perform in a minute. The stronger you are for your weight, the more you should be able to perform.
Finally, the last assessment test is called the sit and reach test. You sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and see how far you can reach. This measures your flexibility in your lower back and hamstrings. Ways to improve your flexibility include consistent stretching exercises or fitness routines that include yoga.
Let's review. Now you know how a fitness assessment can be useful in identifying your current or baseline fitness levels. The fitness assessment can help provide fitness goals, and it also measures the progress of those goals.
You learned about quite a few fitness assessment tests and what they measure for. First, you should take a height and weight measurement to determine if you are overweight for your height. Height and weight is also used when determining your BMI, or body mass index, which is specifically defined as a measure of body fat that helps determine if you are normal weight, underweight, overweight, or obese. Your body composition assessment is similar to BMI, but it measures the ratio of lean body mass to fat mass.
Your resting heart rate, or how many times your heart beats in one minute while your body is at rest, and blood pressure, which is a measure of the force of the blood on the arteries as it gets pumped out of the heart, can indicate your level of cardiovascular fitness and whether or not it needs improvement. Another cardiovascular fitness test is the step test. It measures how quickly your heart rate comes back down to normal after exercise. The faster, the better. Tests that measure muscle strength and endurance include the sit-up test and push-up test. Finally, a test of flexibility is the sit and reach test.
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