Before you start to exercise or decide to take it to the next level, it’s vital to get a full bird view of your health profile and current fitness level. This is especially the case if you’re out of shape, have a history of chronic disease or injury, morbidly obese, or have been a couch potato for a very a long time.
But here’s the tricky part
Assessing fitness and health is not a one-size-fits-all process. It’s more complicated than that. Differences in diet, lifestyle, genetic makeup, environment, and overall conditioning all help determine your fitness and health profile.
Even the terms, fitness and health, are not synonymous as they mean different things (just like we’re going to see shortly).
The Tools of the Trade
Most health experts and fitness coaches will use one or more assessment tools to help you figure your baseline fitness and health profile. These may involve determining vital sign measurements such as your blood pressure, resting heart rate, and body weight mass.
To help you sort through this and get an accurate reading of your current fitness and health profile, today I’m going to share with you a few valuable screening tools to help you exactly achieve that.
The Importance of Assessment
First things first, let’s look at why you need to be self-assessing. This is important for the following reasons:
Know thyself. The test evaluates your current medical history, looking for any issues that you might or might not be aware of. This can help you uncover risks for possible dangers and health complications.
Design a suitable program. The assessment can also help you design the most appropriate exercise program, making sure you won’t be putting your body at risk by doing too much than it can handle or performing an exercise you’re not supposed to be doing, yet.
Know your place. You can compare the results within peer groups to ass where you stand fitness and health-wise.
Have a starting point. The score on each test can provide with a measure for future reference, from which you’d start mapping out your progress as you pursue your running and fitness goals.
Health Vs. Fitness
The terms “fitness” and “health” are typically used interchangeably, but, in reality, these stand for separate states of physical being. For instance, you could be very healthy but not fit; or in phenomenal shape, but not so healthy.
So, what is fitness? What is health?
Health is the general term used to describe the overall well-being status of a person. In essence, it entails being free from diseases or illness.
But that’s not the whole story. According to the World Health Organization, health is not merely the absence of ailments, but is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. I couldn’t agree more.
Conventional science has produced some different factors to gauge health. These include insulin levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, oxygen intake, hormonal metrics, skin health, etc.
Some of the best ways to improve health consist of physical activity (or fitness), balanced nutrition, stress management, reduction pollution, proper sleep, etc.
On the other hand, fitness refers to one’s ability to perform a particular physical movement, be it running, weight lifting, jumping, etc. This ability is typically measured by the level of agility, speed, strength, explosive power, mobility or cardiovascular conditioning.
Physical activity is the primary way to increase fitness. Sure, lifestyle choices, such as diet, play a role. But it boils down to your training volume and quality.
Research shows that increasing one’s fitness can lead to a health boost in so many ways: improved cardiovascular function, reduced cancer risk, stronger immunity, etc.
Assessing Your Health Level
Now that you have some grasp over the subtle disparities between health and fitness let’s look at the assessment itself.
The following questions are examples from the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) composed of questions related to general health. I took a few and added some more to give you a broader understanding of the kind of issues you need to be aware of whenever you want to assess your general health.
Try to answer the following questions as honestly and accurately as possible to provide a clear snapshot of your current health profile.
- Are you a smoker?
- Do you have diabetes
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Do you have asthma or lung disease?
- Do you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
- Do you have arthritis?
- Have you been treated for cancer, or have recently completed cancer treatment?
- Do you feel pain or discomfort in your chest, arms, neck, or jaw during physical activity?
- Do you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint with exercise or exertion?
- Do you have ankle swelling, especially at night?
- Are you older than 45 years?
- Do you have a family history of cardiovascular disease before age 60?
- Are you significantly overweight?
- Do you have a family history of cancer?
- Do you have a family history of other serious diseases?
- Do you have a history of heart disease?
- Do you consume unhealthy food regularly?
- Have you had chest pain while performing the physical exercise?
- Are you suffering from any bone, joint, or any other issues that hinder your mobility while exercising?
- Are you chronically stressed?
- Are you currently pregnant?
If you answer yes to more than one question, then you need to SERIOUSLY reconsider starting a running program. Instead, consult your doctor for options on how to safely proceed before taking up any exercise regimen.
A doctor is the only one who can indeed decide whether running puts you in any danger. If running is not an option, then stick to low-impact, low-intensity exercises, such as walking or yoga.
Assessing Your Fitness Level
The second part tests your current fitness ability on different levels. Just like health, to measure your fitness, you’ll need to take a multi-dimensional approach that takes into consideration a host of factors.
In short, fitness is a measure of your main physical abilities. Physical fitness can be broken down into five different elements:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Muscular strength
- Flexibility or mobility
- Body composition
The following tests assess each facet of your fitness, helping you better understand your overall fitness level and how to devise a plan according to it.
Your Cardio Endurance
This assesses how efficiently your heart and lungs work to provide oxygen and energy to your body during exercise.
Test it – The Two-Mile Run
Warm up for ten minutes, then run a two-miler distance (the equivalent of eight laps on a 400-meter track) as fast as you can. Then record your timing.
20 minutes or longer: Slow
15 to 20 minutes: Ordinary
12 to 15 minutes: Good
10 minutes or less: Excellent
Your Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance involves the muscle’s ability to exert a submaximal force and sustain repeated contraction against a resistance over a prolonged period of time.
Test It – Bodyweight Squat
Begin standing with your hands on your hips.
While keeping the feet shoulder-width apart and knees tracking over the toes, perform as many air squats as possible in one minute. Keep proper form throughout. Lower down till your thighs are parallel to the ground, then press back through the heel to the starting position.
20 or fewer: Weak
21 to 35: Ordinary
36 to 50: Good
50 or more: Excellent
Your Muscular Strength
Muscular strength refers to the maximal voluntary amount of force or torque a muscle group can exert at one time without fatiguing.
Test It – The Push-up
Do as many push-ups as you can with good form: core engaged, back straight and legs extended making sure to lower your body until the upper arms are parallel to the ground.
15 or fewer: Weak
15 to 30: Ordinary
30 to 45: Good
45 or more: Excellent
Body Composition Testing
Body composition testing uncovers how much of your body is and isn’t fat and refer to the different components that make up your total body weight. That consists of your muscles, fat, bones, etc. It also provide a more accurate description of body weight than BMI.
Test it – Skinfold Calipers
Pinch your skin using your non-dominant hand at the location site and pull the fold of skin away from the underlying adipose tissue, so only the skin and fat tissue are being held. Then, with the special calipers in your dominant hand, place the jaws on the skinfold.
When done right, the skinfold should include two thicknesses: one of the subcutaneous fat and one of skin, but no muscle or fascia.
For the full score, check the following link.
Assessing your flexibility–or mobility–of your joint is essential for uncovering any mechanical instabilities, postural imbalances, or limitations in your range of motion.
Test It- Sit and Reach
Sit on the floor barefoot with legs stretched out straight. Make sure both your knees are locked and pressed flat to the floor. Then place a ruler or measuring tape on the floor between your legs or the top of step with a 12-inch piece of tape across it at the 15-inch mark.
Next, with the palms facing downwards, reach forward (without bouncing) along the measuring line as far as possible. Hold the position at the point of your greatest reach, then measure how far you have reached.
For adult men
Below 15 = Poor
15 to 22 = Below Average
23 to 27 = Average
28 to 35 = Above Average
Above 35 = Excellence
For adult woman
Below 22 = Poor
23 to 27 = Below Average
29 to 32 = Average
33 to 38 = Above Average
Above 38 = Excellence
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There you have it. The above tips and guidelines are virtually all you need to know to be able to measure your fitness and health levels down to the letter. The rest is really up to you.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong