How a Fitness Test Is Performed

Assessing Your Health Limitations and Exercise Capacity

A fitness test, also known as a fitness assessment, is comprised a series of exercises that help evaluate the health and physical status of an individual.

There is wide of range of standardized tests used for these exams, some of which are used for medical purposes (to ensure that a person can tolerate an activity) and others of which establish whether a person is qualified to participate (such as with the Army combat readiness test).

For the purpose of general health and fitness, tests like these are considered the starting point for designing an ​appropriate exercise program. They are meant to ensure that a person won't be at risk of harm and provide the trainer with the insights needed to establish clear and effective fitness goals.

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Fitness Screenings
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Before starting any new exercise program, it is a good idea to share your medical history with your trainer and to get the necessary approvals from your doctor to proceed.

Most trainers and fitness specialists will use one or more screening tools to determine the baseline health of a client. They may include:

  • Vital sign measurements including height, weight, resting heart rate (RHR), and resting blood pressure (RBP)
  • PAR-Q (physical activity readiness questionnaire) comprised of seven or more questions related to your health history

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Body composition testing
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Body composition describes the different components (muscles, bone, fat) that make up a person's total body weight. The most common methods for estimating body composition include:

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Woman using home treadmill equipment
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Cardiovascular endurance testing measures how efficiently the heart and lungs work to supply oxygen and energy to the body during physical activity. Among the three most common methods of measuring endurance:

  • 12-minute run test which is performed on a treadmill and compares the baseline heart and respiration rates with the post-exercise heart and respiration rates
  • VO2 max testing ​which is also performed on a treadmill and uses a breathing device to measure the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during activity​
  • Exercise stress testing which is also performed on a treadmill and involves the use of an electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood pressure cuff to measure vital signs during exercise

Stationary bikes are also commonly used. Some trainers will modify the tests and use different types of exercises (including sit-ups and push-ups) to evaluate exercise stress levels.

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Push Up Test
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Muscle strength testing measures the maximal amount of force a muscle group can exert at one time, while endurance testing measures the length of time a muscle group can contract before it fatigues.

The results are compared to those of people of the same gender and similar age. The comparison provides the trainer with a baseline by which to recommend the appropriate types of exercises starting out.

The exercises standardly used include the push-up test and the core strength and stability test, among others.

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Photo of a young active woman stretching her hamstrings.
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Measuring the flexibility of certain joints is helpful in assessing muscle weakness, postural imbalances, and limitations in the range of motion. There are a variety of ways to measure flexibility, including:

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