A fitness test, also known as a fitness assessment, is comprised of a series of measurements that can help you evaluate your overall fitness and wellness.
When you start a new fitness or diet program, it’s important to have a baseline of where you are. In fact, the more information you have, the more likely you are to make better decisions when setting your goals and designing your program. The good news is that there are a number of assessments that you can take to uncover valuable data about your wellness. Moreover, these assessments can help you track progress later on and see if you are on the right track.
In this article, we cover the assessments you can do to determine your fitness level, how to conduct them, and how to use your results.
1. Body Composition
Two people with the same weight, height and gender can have completely different fitness profiles and health risks. That’s because body composition (i.e. what you body is made of) matters a lot more than weight. Having your body composition measured can help you determine your fitness level much more accurately.
The body fat percentage is a measure of body composition that shows how much of your body weight is fat. The body fat percentage is calculated as the total mass of fat divided by total body mass, times 100.
Your body fat percentage can indicate whether you fall within the "low body fat risk,” "ultra lean,” "moderately lean," "excess fat" or "high body fat risk" zone.
Body fat is composed of essential and storage fat.
Essential fat is necessary to maintain life and reproductive functions. Women have higher body fat and essential body fat percentages relative to men for any given level of fitness. This difference is attributed to physiological differences, such as hormones, ovulation and childbearing.
The percentage of essential fat is 4–5% in men, and 10–13% in women.
Storage body fat consists of fat accumulation in adipose tissue. The main role of adipose tissue is to store energy in the form of lipids, although it also cushions and insulates the body, protecting internal organs in the chest and abdomen. While some storage body fat is needed, excess accumulation of fat can be harmful.
Fat-free mass (lean mass or tissue) includes bones, water, muscle, organs, and tissues. Your fat-free mass is metabolically active so it constantly burns calories for energy. Increasing fat-free mass has several health benefits, such as improved metabolism, strength, power, and appearance.
Bone mineral density is the amount of bone mineral in your bone tissue. The higher your bone mineral content, the denser your bones are. And the denser your bones, the stronger they generally are and the less likely they are to break. By combining healthy eating with exercise, you could increase your bone density and improve your bone health.
There are several methods you can use to measure body fat percentage. This includes getting a DEXA scan or a BOD POD test (both of these assessments are considered the gold standard for body fat assessment), using on a body fat scale or a skin fold caliper.
A detailed overview of the pros and cons of each method is available under this guide: How to Measure Body Fat.
2. Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)
Waist-to-hip ratio is the ratio of the circumference of the waist to that of the hips. It is calculated as the circumference of the waist divided by the circumference of the hips. WHR determines how much fat is stored on your waist relative to your hips.
Research shows that people with "apple-shaped" bodies (with more weight around the waist) face more health risks than those with "pear-shaped" bodies who carry more weight around the hips. The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that women with waist-hip ratios of more than 0.8, and men with more than 1.0, are at increased health risk because of their fat distribution.
Aim for a waist-to-hip ratio of:
less than 0.80 for women
less than 1.0 for men.
3. Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of your weight relative to your height. It is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.
BMI does not account for body fat or body fat distribution. Rather, it uses your weight and height to indicate whether you are in the underweight, normal, overweight or obese range.
The above chart shows the correlation between body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat (%BF) for women in the NCHS' NHANES survey data.
Data in the upper left and lower right quadrants suggest the limitations of BMI:
An individual with a “normal” BMI can have a high body fat percentage, and therefore higher health risks. This classification is often referred to as “skinny fat.”
An individual with a high BMI (overweight or obese) can have a healthy body fat percentage. An example of people in this category are athletes.
(2) BMI DOES NOT INDICATE WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION
Individuals with a similar BMI could have completely different body shapes, and thus varying risk of disease and early mortality.
The above image shows the 3D body models of four women with the same weight (130 lbs) and height (5"4). While the four women have the same BMI, they have completely different health risks (because of their waist-to-hip ratio and body fat distribution).
4. The Metabolic Rate (RMR)
Metabolism is the process of converting food into the energy that allows your body to function. “Slow” or “fast” metabolism often refers to how quickly your body burns calories. The more calories you burn, the easier it is for you to maintain or lose your weight.
The Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is a set of measures of your metabolism when you are resting. The RMR shows the minimum number of calories that your body needs to function normally.
Your RMR is influenced by your genetics, age, gender, amount of body fat and muscle that you have, and the amount of exercise that you do. Thus, two people with the same weight and height can have completely different metabolic rates and energy needs.
Measuring your RMR can help you understand how fast your body burns calories. Once you know the number of calories that your body burns at rest, you can use that number to design a more personalized nutrition plan.
The good news is that you can boost your metabolism by changing your lifestyle.
How to Boost Your Metabolism
If you eat enough protein, you will allow your body to build and repair its muscle tissue. As a result, this will help you maintain or increase your muscle mass.
If you increase your daily activity level and/or do strength training, you will not only burn more calories, but will also strengthen your muscle mass.
If you ear less sugar (and more protein and fat), you will boost your RMR. Unlike protein and fat, the amount of energy that it requires for the body to process sugar, is relatively small compared with fat and/or protein.
Get an RMR Test with The Fitnescity Method.
5. Aerobic Capacity (VO2max)
Oxygen uptake is the transportation and utilization of oxygen in your body during exercise. “Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max)” is used to measure the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use during exertion. VO2max is measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/m).
This measurement provides a good indication of how well your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles are working together and how healthy they are, while also indicating your personal fitness level. The higher the VO2max, the better you transport and use oxygen. This gives you more energy during exercise.
Your VO2max peaks around your 20s and can start to decline in your 30s at a rate of approximately 10 percent per decade.
Based on your gender and age, you should aim for a VO2 max level in the “above average” category or higher, as shown in the interactive VO2 Max chart below.
PREDICTED VO2 MAX CHART
Get a VO2 Max with The Fitnescity Method.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that occurs naturally in your body. At normal levels, it is essential for the body to function properly. This includes making hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods.
Your body generally makes all the cholesterol it needs, thus eating too much saturated and trans fats leads to an excess of cholesterol in your blood. This, in turn, can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Excess weight, smoking, drinking alcohol and hypertension are also risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol. Although high blood cholesterol does not usually produce any symptoms, it is a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The great news is that it can easily be controlled with exercise and proper nutrition.
First, here’s what you need to know about cholesterol measurements
Cholesterol is transported in the blood by lipoproteins, of which there are two main types:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is known as "bad" cholesterol because it can clog up your arteries
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is known as "good" or “healthy” cholesterol because it helps take cholesterol out of the bloodstream.
Total cholesterol levels less than 199 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
LDL cholesterol levels less than 129 mg/dL.
HDL levels of 45 mg/dL or higher for women and 39 mg/dL or higher for men.
Total cholesterol to HDL ratio less than 5.0 (the lower the ratio, the better).
Triglyceride levels below 89 for ages ranging from 10 to 19 and below 149 mg/dL for adults over the age of 20.
7. Blood glucose
Glucose (“blood sugar”) is the chief source of energy for all cells in the body. Glucose levels are regulated by hormones produced by your pancreas, including insulin. A glucose level outside the optimal range could be a sign that the body is not correctly producing or using insulin. This includes having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar.
A fasting blood glucose (without eating or drinking anything but water for at least 8 hours) can determine the most accurate result for blood glucose.
Fasting blood sugar level less than 99 mg/dL.
Non-fasting blood sugar level less than 125 mg/dL.
Exercise is one of the best ways to keep blood sugar under control, since lean mass is a crucial tissue for maintaining normal levels of blood glucose and energy balance. Exercise not only increases your lean mass, but it also makes your heart beat a little faster, and makes you breathe a little harder. This, in turn, helps your muscles use more glucose. Over time, this can lower your blood sugar levels as well.
8. The Wellness Score: Fitnescity’s signature wellness assessment
The Wellness Score is one of Fitnescity’s signature assessments.
This assessment takes preventative health to a whole new level. It is designed with the goal of helping you become more aware of your own wellness and empowering you to make more informed decisions.
The test is a deep dive into your wellness. It uses an algorithm to score various aspects of your lifestyle, such as your physical activity, sleep, stress, emotional well-being, medical history, nutrition, water and alcohol consumption. The test is based on an extensive (10-15 min) questionnaire and scores all your answers using a proprietary, research-based algorithm. Your answers are scaled from 0 to 100, and each answer has a unique value that is used to calculate your overall score. The good thing is that you can’t really cheat on the test because, unlike other wellness tests or surveys, finding the perfect answer is not that easy. The Wellness Score will require you to answer a lot of open-ended questions along with YES/NO’s, opinion scale and multiple choice questions. There are also a few tricky and unpredictable sections.
Once you complete the assessment, the Wellness Score will provide you with three types of results: an overall wellness score, a deep dive into each category and its score (history, physical activity, sleep, stress, emotions, nutrition, water and alcohol consumption), along with feedback and actionable recommendations on each question.
9. The Fitnescity Method
The Fitnescity Method uses all of the above assessments to build a comprehensive view of your wellness (since one data point is not enough!) Most importantly, the Fitnescity Method uses all the data to formulate personalized recommendations on how you can optimize your diet, exercise and overall lifestyle.
Extensive dietary analysis (macronutrients/micronutrients). We compare your current nutrition profile with clinical guidelines for a balanced diet for individuals like you: sedentary, power athlete, endurance athlete or senior.
In-depth digital wellness assessment: We analyze and score the factors that affect your fitness: Nutrition. Activity, Sleep. Stress. Emotions. History.
Diet and exercise program design (based on 200+ data points from your results): The program is uniquely designed for you and uses an algorithm to adapt to your results as they change.
BOD POD body composition test: The BOD POD is the world’s gold standard for fast, accurate and safe Body Fat Assessment. Learn more
Metabolic Rate test: The Resting Metabolic Rate (Canopy System) test uses state-of-the-art technology to measure the number of calories your body needs at rest. You will also receive your estimated Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) and your calorie profile (whether you burn more fat or carbs). Learn more
VO2max test: Your aerobic capacity (VO2max) is measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of your body weight utilized per minute. Decreased cardiovascular ability is associated with an increased risk for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular health.
Lactate Threshold test (optional): The lactate profile is the gold standard used by endurance athletes to improve performance. Changes in blood lactate levels indicate transitions in the energy utilized by your body during incremental exercise.
Biomarker test: This blood test will establish your body’s baseline values for biomarkers like cholesterol, white blood cells, vitamin D, cortisol, and protein.