01 February 2012

5 Fitness Factors and 5 at-home Fitness Tests

People often mistakenly judge fitness by weight alone.  I distinctly remember sitting at dinner with my in-laws a year after my second child was born. I had lost all the weight, and had gained some upper body strength from carrying a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old everywhere I went.  But I hadn’t found the time to get back running and felt horribly out of shape.  I do
n’t think I could have run a mile.

So, when my father-in-law commented how in shape I was and I groaned a regretful “not really”, I was surprised that he was surprised.  You can’t measure fitness by body composition and muscle strength alone.  Endurance, aerobic fitness and flexibility are equally important.   

Do you know your fitness level?  Here are five, simple do-it-yourself tests you can do to find out. Before beginning any strenuous exercise, consult your physician and use your judgment.
1.    To test the strength in your chest, shoulders and triceps, try the Push-up Test.  Do as many push-ups (ladies can do modified push-ups on your knees if needed) as you can within one minute.  Assuming you are under the age of 50, can you do at least 20 pushups*? 
2.    To test your abdominal strength and endurance, do the Crunch Test.  Do as many partial curl ups as you can within one minute.  (Keep your lower back on the floor for support and stability.)  Assuming you are under the age of 45: ladies, can you do at least 25; men, can you do at least 40 crunches*?

To test your cardiovascular endurance, try the 3-minute Step Test – remember this one from Middle School gym class?  Step up-up, down-down on a stair that is 12” tall.  Here you are not counting how many steps you complete, but your heart rate after.  Keep a consistent pace and rest if you need to. (note: a typical stair isn't 12" but your fireplace hearth probably is.) After 3 minutes, sit down and check your pulse and once again after one full minute of rest.  The fitter you are, the faster you’ll recover. 
A simple formula to calculate your predicted maximum heart rate is subtract your age from 220 (ex. if you are 40, the answer is 220 - 40 = 180 beats per minute);
Your target heart rate during exercise should be 60-80% of your max (or 108-144 in the previous example). 
Your recovery heart rate one minute after stopping should be 30-39 beats less than your exercise heart rate.  Learn more from The Cleveland Clinic
4.     Another aerobic endurance test is to Walk 1-Mile at a moderate, sustainable pace, preferably not on a treadmill and don’t forget to warm-up first.  Were you able to walk a mile in 15 minutes*? 
5.     There are a variety of Flexibility Tests including Sit and Reach, Trunk Rotation, Hamstring and Shoulder Flexion.  We have found yoga to be an excellent practice for improving all five fitness factors, particularly flexibility.

*Find specific benchmarks by age and gender below, published on SparkPeople.
Push up Test
Crunch Test Standard Chart
Step Test Chart
1-Mile Walk Chart

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle 

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