Cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition are all components of physical fitness, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Improving all aspects of your fitness can reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions and diseases and give your overall health a boost. Different tests and methods are used to assess each component of your physical fitness.
A common method of testing cardiorespiratory endurance, which is also known as aerobic endurance, is the 1-1/2 mile field test. This test is done by running or walking 1-1/2 miles in the shortest amount of time. Your time is then entered into a formula that predicts your VO2 max, which is the capacity of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to your working muscles. VO2 max is the most valid measure of aerobic fitness. After you have predicted your VO2 max, you can use a chart to determine your aerobic fitness level.
Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle group to exert maximal force and muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to perform sub-maximal force for an extended period of time. Some examples of muscular endurance tests include determining how many pushups, pullups or situps you can do in a given amount of time. Muscular strength for each of your major muscle groups can be measured by determining how much weight you can lift in one repetition. Visiting a trained exercise specialist can be beneficial in assessing your muscular fitness.
The sit-and-reach test is a common method of testing trunk and hamstring flexibility. This test is done by placing a yardstick on the floor with tape stretching across the 15-inch mark. Sit with your legs at right angles to the taped line across the floor, with your feet 10 to 12 inches apart. Slowly lean forward as far as possible while keeping your knees straight. The score is the most distant point on the yardstick you reach after two attempts. Your flexibility assessment should be done when your muscles are warm, preferably after your aerobic and muscular fitness tests, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Your body composition refers to the makeup of your body, including lean mass and fat mass. A common method of assessing your body composition is by taking skin-fold measurements. This consists of a trained technician using calipers to measure subcutaneous fat on different parts of your body. These measurements are used to estimate your total body fat percentage. According to the ACSM, the healthy body fat percentage range for men is between 10 percent and 22 percent and between 20 percent and 32 percent for women.
- American Council on Exercise: Measuring Musculoskeletal Fitness
- "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription"; Walter R. Thompson, ed.; 2010