Simple Fitness Tests You Can Do at Home

Fitness tests are a great way to check your fitness level at the beginning of a new workout routine. They can help you track your progress and determine where you need to make changes in your workout routine in order to continue advancing.

If you want an elaborate, and expensive assessment of your fitness level, you can go to a sports performance lab to learn your VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise) your LT (lactate threshold), and exercise metabolism, but for the majority of people this is unnecessary (even if it is affordable).

If you're not an elite athlete, or just want to track some basic measurements, there are a few simple fitness tests you can do on your own at home. Always be sure that you've talked with your doctor before doing any exercise you aren't accustomed to in order to make sure it's safe for you.

Let's look at four fitness tests you can do at, or at least near, home.

BMI (Body Mass Index) Measurement

feet on scale
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BMI or Body Mass Index is a formula that estimates a person's ideal body weight based upon weight and height measurements. Even though the BMI calculation is an indirect measure of body composition, it has been found to be a fairly reliable indicator of both body composition and ideal weight recommendations for most people.

Unlike direct body composition measurements, BMI can't specifically tell you how much of your weight is muscle and how much is fat. A bodybuilder, for example, can show up as having a high BMI because of the added weight of muscle.

The BMI measurement isn't a reliable indicator in these cases, but it's a simple way to track progress during a weight loss program for the average person.

Core Strength and Stability Test

man and woman in plank position
The core strength and stability test is a good and challenging way to measure your core strength. Tetra Images/Getty Images

The core strength and stability test is a test created by sports coach Brian Mackenzie. The test not only tests the core strength and stability which gives the test its name but is a measure of upper body strength as well. It is sometimes referred to as the plank fitness test because of the plank position utilized.

An advantage of this test is its simplicity, as well as how it engages more muscles than nearly any isolated abdominal exercise. The test can give you a good read on your current core strength and can be used to follow your progress over time.

Many people who can do a hundred crunches are surprised when they can't fully complete this test. Try it and see for yourself. If you can't finish the test, however, don't fret. It simply means that you need to work at improving your core strength.

Push Up Test

woman doing push up
Tom Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

The push-up test has been around for a very long time because it is simple and effective, both as an upper-body exercise and as a way to measure upper body strength and fitness.

You can check your own upper body strength and monitor your progress over time. Upper body strength is essential for many athletes, as well as parents who pick up children or backpacks, and is often a good indication of overall fitness.

After you complete the test, you can compare your results to the norms and recommendations for your age and gender and track your own progress by performing the test every two to three months.

12 Minute Run Test

Woman running outside
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The 12-minute run test or "Cooper test" was developed by Dr. Ken Cooper in 1968 for the military to measure aerobic fitness and provide an estimate of VO2 max. The run test is still used today and is a simple way to assess aerobic fitness.

Clearly, this test is for runners and should be done after a thorough warm-up. It's also best performed on a track so you can accurately measure the distance (or along a road or trail where you can use GPS).

Simply plug the distance you ran in 12 minutes into one of these formulas to get an estimate of your VO2 Max.

  • Kilometers: VO2 max = (22.351 x kilometers) - 11.288
  • Miles: VO2 max = (35.97 x miles) - 11.29.

Using your numbers allows you to compare your cardiovascular endurance with people of your same gender and age.

The Bottom Line

The fitness tests above can all be done from the comfort of your home and neighborhood roads or track. Combined, the tests can give you a good idea about your overall fitness, but individually may help you determine what you need to work on.

For example, if you struggle with the core strength and stability stress you may need to work on increasing your core strength. The difficulty with the pushup test may mean a need to work on your upper body strength. A 12 minute run test that is not consistent with your age may mean you need to concentrate on your cardiovascular fitness.

A BMI above 25 (unless you are a bodybuilder) may indicate a need to look at your diet as well as exercise. All in all, the tests can be a source of motivation to begin or continue a fitness regimen to keep you in the best condition possible.

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Article Sources
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  • McArdle, William D. Exercise Physiology. Lippincott Williams and Wilkens, 2014.