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Measure your Health & Fitness with 5 simple tests.

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


Getting to grips with your health & fitness is easy with these 5 tests you can do at home or in the gym. Think of these as a kind of 'Car M.O.T' for your health and fitness. With 5 tests and a bonus 2 more if you have the equipment, you can keep a general eye on how your body is progressing over time. Leaving it to our interpretations of ourselves is subjective and often biased by our mood when we seek to perceive ourselves. Using tests and measurements gives us much more accurate data and objective numbers to prove and establish what truly is going on with our bodies.


There's so much more to health and fitness than weight loss. Yes, fat loss does play a big factor in our health but there's a good chance you know this already. What a lot of people lose sight of is all the other functional benefits that give you better health and more quality of life. If you were fitter do you think you could lose more weight?


Any new regime should start with baseline fitness tests, otherwise we can't see and prove how far our new functional training has brought us. Likewise, having the tests and repeating them on a regular basis can show us if the chosen training methods are effective for our goals. Let's take a look at the tests that will help us build a better understanding of our cardiovascular fitness, risk of developing heart disease as well as basic flexibility.


Resting Heart Rate (HR)


A very simple test to begin to understand the stresses placed upon your heart. If you own a smart device that records your HR simply be at rest for 5 mins+ such as sitting. With your feet flat on the floor sitting upright, not talking/eating/drinking take relaxed breathes for 1 min whilst your device gets you a reading.


You can also use your fingers (not thumb) on your Carotid artery or Radial artery to count the number of pulses or beats you feel for 1 minute. Try not to count for 30 seconds and double the result as your HR fluctuates slightly. Be sure to count for the full 60 seconds.

Carotid and Radial Pulse Locations
Carotid and Radial Pulse Locations Image from https://www.wikihow.com/Check-Your-Pulse

It doesn't really matter what result you get, the point is to test again later to see if there has been a difference made, ideally lower/slower HR. However, that being said the average person should expect their resting HR to be between 60 - 100 beats per minute (BPM). Some athletes and fit individuals can expect their BPM to be as low as 40. If you don't consider yourself fit and your HR is below 40 or above 100 you may need to seek medical advice before beginning any strenuous activity programme.


Hip to Waist Ratio


For this you will need a tape measure, ideally a sewing tape or specialised body tape. Here we are looking at the circumference of your waist compared to your hips. This can tell us if your body is depositing fat reserves higher up the body around your vital organs or lower down around the buttocks. Lower is better and results in a score of less than 1.0. A high score above 1.0 is an indication that you have more visceral fat pressing in on, and disrupting the functions of your vital organs as well as increased risk of developing a Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). It's also a handy measurement to help track weight loss in relation to clothing sizes.


To perform the test, measure the circumference around your waist which should be the thinnest point of you abdomen when looking from in front or a point 1 inch (3 cm) above your belly button if there is no obvious dip. You can even go for an inch above the belly button if you can see a dip as this makes the test more repeatable with less variables later on.


Now measure the circumference around your hips, which is at a height equating to the deepest part of your buttocks when viewed from side on. Make sure to measure both areas using the same units (inches/centimetres). The less clothing you have to obstruct results the better and having someone on hand is helpful but not essential.


To get your score, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement and round to 1 decimal place. Waist / Hip = W:H (1 d.p).

Waist:Hip Ratio Locations
Waist:Hip Ratio Locations and Score


Relative Fat Mass (RFM)


Relative Fat Mass is another method of measuring fat deposits but as an estimation across the entire body. Loosely, an easy way of predicting your body fat percentage (%BF). This is a good measurement to support Body Mass Index (BMI) testing and is better for women and those carrying more muscle than BMI. The reasons why, and what your score means can be found in our handy PDF guide which you can download here for free.


Using your waist measurements you took earlier, plug this number (must be converted to meters) along with your height in metres into one of the following two equations to give you a score:

Men

64 - (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM

Women

​76 - (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM


Sit and Reach Test


Flexibility and mobility are vital for reducing injuries and protecting form slips and falls into later life and is partly a measure of quality of life being able to move the body without restriction. The more supple your joints and muscles are the more freedom you have to traverse space and time as you see fit rather than being trapped in your own cage of limitations. The Sit and Reach test is a qualitative measure adapted from being able to touch your toes with straight legs. You get a number out of this one to see progress rather than estimating how close you are to the ground.


To perform the test, sit on the floor with your legs out stretched against a flat but elevated surface. A coffee table, sofa or toolbox will serve this elevated object purpose. With your feet flat against the object and knees locked out, push a pencil/credit card/paper as far as you can along the top of your object then release once you reach as far as you can. Using a ruler or tape measure, identify your result by measuring from the objects edge to the closest point of your pencil/credit card/papers edge. Repeat the test 3 times, you should get further with each attempt as your muscles stretch a little more.


Work out the average of the 3 attempts by adding the results together and dividing by 3. This is your score to test against next time. As with all your test results, be sure to write them down or keep a note of them, perhaps in your smartphone so they don't get lost.


Step Test


Perform this test last as it will effect the results of other tests such as your resting HR and Sit & Reach test. You'll need a timer and a competitive attitude to measure your cardiovascular (CV) fitness here. How well you can keep up with the kids, get up stairs without being shattered and walk the dog with ease would be considered your cardiovascular efficiency. There are many ways to measure CV fitness but this is a simple test you can do at home.


March on the spot as fast as you can for 2 minutes! Your knee needs to come up to at least a height equal to half way up your other leg and you must have a foot on the floor at all times (no jogging on the spot). Pick a foot and count the number of times that foot touches the floor. Therefore 2 steps is a score of 1.


Sounds simple but you'll be out of breath if you try hard enough. If you score more than 140 you may need to look at other tests like the Rockport Walk or Multi Stage Fitness Testing but these require more time and knowledge that can be found in the Ludus Training Area.


Variables and Repetition


All the tests should be repeated every 6 - 8 weeks if you workout or enter a new training regime. If not, then perhaps more like 3 - 6 months to keep an eye on your health. A vital thing to do is limit the variables as far as possible, use the same tape measure, the same sit and reach surface and the same clothing as before where applicable. That way we can see the difference you have made instead of the difference in the tape measure, for example.


Blood Pressure (BP) and Grip Test


Some bonus tests you can perform if you have access to the equipment is the Blood Pressure test/measurement and grip test. These require a BP monitor and a grip dynamometer. Both are readily available for purchase, though Armoured Muscle has them available to use if you ask nicely.


BP monitors are self explanatory and you're looking for your systolic pressure to be between 90 - 120 and diastolic pressure to be between 60 - 80. Any high numbers indicate a risk of hypertension and/or atherosclerosis which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. Your blood pressure can be brought down with diet and exercise but will only go so far to normal levels. High BP is called the silent killer as the symptoms often don't present until it's too late, so monitoring your results with a little self 'M.O.T' can give you the early warning to act before it's too late.


Grip Testing is difficult to improve but like BP measurements can be an early warning. A reduction in grip strength can show muscle atrophy. There's also an association between lower grip scores and increased risks of developing many forms of cancer. Additionally, high grip scores are usually associated with more muscle mass which helps to protect the body from impact and has faster hospital recovery from major trauma. The score you should look to achieve varies with sex, age, protocol and reference data. Therefore, however you test your grip, be it your dominant/non-dominant hand or both for multiple attempts or just one. Make sure you repeat the test parameters and positions again the next time. Generally the same score or higher is going to be better overall.


Now you have a choice of 7 tests to complete, all at once or over a period of time to suit you to help you asses and monitor your Heart Rate, CVD risk, Body Fat percentage, Flexibility, CV efficiency, BP and upper body strength. Combined they should give you a decent enough picture of your overall functional fitness and health. Should you want more tests or more in depth tests, don't hesitate to have a chat with us. Don't forget to write your results down and repeat the tests with minimal variables in just over a month to 2 months later.

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