By: Aaron Benator, Certified Health Coach on January 11th, 2022
6 Fitness Assessments to Help Track Your Progress
Are you making physical fitness a priority? Setting a new goal to build strength? Or improve your mobility, balance, or stamina? To know how far you've come, you need to first find out where you are right now. Then, you can track your progress over time.
As you get started on your fitness journey, here are six fitness tests you can do that will help track your progress over time. Repeat them every few weeks, every few months, or at the end of the year to compare your numbers and find out how much progress you've made.
Before we get started, it's always important to make sure that your body is ready for the test. None of these tests will be too crazy. However, injuries can happen. Make sure that your body is feeling good. If there's any pain, stop immediately.
And it's always a good idea to check with your physician before you start doing something different in terms of physical activity.
1. Dead Hang Test
I went over that disclaimer, primarily because the first exercise is incredibly beneficial. It's a really good thing to do. However, lots of people have shoulder issues that could make it difficult.
This is the "Dead Hang."
Find a pull-up bar, and hang off of it. Count the amount of time you can spend hanging. Then, when you repeat the test, see if your time has improved.
Really, really beneficial, and it can be super healthy. When somebody can support their weight, hanging from a bar, it's a very basic motor pattern and a good thing to have.
However, be very careful with this, especially if you have shoulder issues.
2. Body Composition Test
The next test is the body composition test. Of course, this is not exercise. This is not movement. But figuring out where you are in terms of body composition is incredibly beneficial. One of the best things to do is use an InBody scale, which we have in the PartnerMD Health Coach Offices.
The benefit here is it tells you how much body fat mass you have, how much skeletal muscle mass you have, and it breaks it down in terms of percent body fat.
This is really important because weight is a very generic term. Many people say they want to lose weight. But if you build muscle, which would be good, that's also weight.
If you are burning body fat, and making skeletal muscle mass, then you are getting much healthier. If you make two pounds of skeletal muscle mass, and you burn two pounds of fat, that is absolutely amazing. One of the best things anybody can do. However, the bathroom scale will not show a change. And the risk is, there's no change. You didn't lose weight. So the frustration might set in. But you are getting healthier.
Getting regular InBody tests can help track and provide context to your progress over time.
3. Three-Minute Step Test
The next test is really important and is one of the simpler tests one can do to check cardiovascular health. This is the three-minute step test.
Find a step that is approximately 13 inches high. Set a metronome — there are some good metronomes on your iPhones or Androids for free — at 96 beats a minute. Step up at 96 beats a minute. That's the pace for three minutes.
At the end of three minutes, have a seat and find your pulse as quickly as possible.
Count the cumulative number of beats in a minute. The fewer beats there are, the healthier your cardiovascular system is. The more beats, the less healthy. Here is a chart that breaks it down by age.
However, the most important thing is to check your progress. Hopefully you're making a little bit of progress every couple of weeks, and you can feel good about that progress.
4. Maximum Aerobic Function Test
The other beneficial cardiovascular test is based on Phil Maffetone's maximum aerobic function test. You can do this with a recumbent bicycle.
Take your age and subtract it from 180. That would be your maximum heart rate.
While on a bicycle, keep your heart rate at or below that number of beats per minute.
Do it for 12 minutes and see how much distance you've covered in 12 minutes.
Be sure to use a basic level of resistance, so that you can make this test constant.
Then, go back several weeks later and try to gain with that same level of resistance and ideally the same machine, because there is variability in those kinds of things.
But hopefully, you cover more distance at the same resistance, keeping your heart rate below that number. 180 minus your age from it.
5. Walk for Two Hours
The other basic test is cardiovascular, but it's also just basic movement. Try to see if you can walk for two hours.
Find a good podcast. Find a good audiobook. Find some music. Find a friend. Anything that keeps you going for two hours. Hopefully that is something that you can do without pain.
6. Single-Leg Balance Test
And then one of the last tests we'll talk about is the single-leg balance test.
First, balance on one foot with your eyes open and count the time you can stand on one foot. If you need a chair or something nearby to catch yourself, that is fine. Repeat with the other foot.
Then, close your eyes and count the time you can stand on each foot.
Our balance is incredibly important. This goes back to proprioception, knowing where your body is in space. It is incredibly important to prevent falls, which is something we want not to do very much.
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