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How to Assess Fitness Level

Updated on June 28, 2012

Understanding fitness level is critical for anyone beginning a fitness regime, maintaining their level or training for competitive athletics. Establishing a baseline is essential for progress to be determined. The question remains, “How do you to assess fitness level?

Follow Up With Your Doctor First

Follow Up With Your Doctor First
Follow Up With Your Doctor First | Source

Consult A Physician

Before starting any exercise program, it is important to contact your health professional. Once given a clean bill of health, there are six test categories use to evaluate fitness level:

  • Weight
  • Body Composition
  • Blood Pressure
  • Heart Rate
  • Strength
  • Flexibility


Weight is a measurement of the mass of an object. It does not assess density or composition. Weight can easily be assessed using a scale. Ideal weights have been established based on height. Keep in mind, these are guidelines and do not factor in build or body composition.

Body Composition

There are four common ways to assess body composition: hydrostatic weighing, skinfold, bio-electrical impedance analysis and body mass index.

Hydrostatic Weighing

After air has been expelled from the lungs, the body is submerged in water. The underwater body weight is then measured.

Body density is then calculated using the following formula:

Body density = density of water ((weight of body)/(weight of body-weight of immersed body))


Using calipers, the skin and fat tissue are pulled away from the muscles and measure in millimeters. Seven areas of the body are measured.

  • Triceps - The back of the upper arm
  • Pectoral - The mid-chest, just forward of the armpit
  • Subscapula - Beneath the edge of the shoulder blade
  • Midaxilla - Midline of the side of the torso
  • Abdomen - Next to the belly button
  • Suprailiac - Just above the iliac crest of the hip bone
  • Quadriceps - Middle of the upper thigh

Body composition can then be measured using defined calculations.

These calculations yield, with 98% accuracy, measurements for:

  • Density
  • Lean Weight
  • Fat Weight
  • % Fat

Bio-electrical Impedance Analysis or BIA

Prior to BIA, the following guidelines must be followed to ensure accurate readings:

  • no food or drink for four hours
  • no exercise for twelve hours
  • no alcohol for forty eight hours
  • voiding within thirty minutes of evaluation

Electrodes are attached and a low level of impedance passes through the body. Measurements of body composition are generated.

Body Mass Index or BMI

BMI is a calculation used to assess body composition

Men Ideal BMI = 0.5 * kg/m2 + 11.5

Women Ideal BMI = 0.4 * kg/m2 + 0.03*Age + 11

kg= mass of the object measured in kilograms

m= height/length of the object measured in meters

A healthy body has a BMI in the normal range

Body Mass Index or BMI Chart

Body Mass Index or BMI Chart
Body Mass Index or BMI Chart | Source

Blood Pressure

A normal blood pressure is 120(systolic) and 80(diastolic) readings or 120/80 mmHg. Systolic refers to blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. Diastolic refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. The mmHg is millimeters of mercury (the units used to measure blood pressure).

Blood pressure ranges outside of normal should be further evaluated by a physician before implementing a fitness regime.

Blood Pressure Ranges

Systolic (top number)
Diastolic (bottom number)
Less than 120
Less than 80
High blood pressure
Stage 1
Stage 2
160 or higher
100 or higher
The ranges in the table apply to most adults (aged 18 and older) who don't have short-term serious illnesses. source:

How To Measure Resting Heart Rate

Resting Heart Rate Ranges

Conditioned athletes: 40 - 50 beats per minute which is well below the

Average male: 70 bpm

Average femele: 75 bpm

Heart Rate

Resting Heart Rate:

Utilizing the video above, resting heart rate can be manually determined.

Target and Maximum Heart Rate:

To maximize most work outs, attempt to maintain your target heart rate or 50% to 75% of your maximum heart rate.

Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.

Plank Hold, Push up and Squat Form

Plank hold and pushup position
Plank hold and pushup position | Source
Form at the bottom of the squat
Form at the bottom of the squat | Source


Body strength should include three body regions: core, lower body and upper body.

Core: Strong core or abdominal muscles are essential for all exercises.

Count the number of sit ups you can complete in one minute.

Time how long you can hold a plank position.

Lower Body:
A squat test is a good measurement of lower body strength. Perform a squat over a chair. Verify that you are getting low enough with your squat so that your bottom is touching the chair. Perform to fatigue and record total number of squats performed.

Upper Body:

The push up is a simple assessment of upper body strength. Record number of pushups you can complete, with correct form, in one minute.

How to Determine Flexibility for Fitness Assessment


The flexibility test measures hamstring and lower back flexibility. Proper flexibility can prevent injury during exercise.

Perform sit and reach test and record results.

Fitness Journal Example

Time and Date
Type of Activity
9:30 am, May 1
Cardio/Strength Class
45 minutes
Felt great during class. Amazing intensity
9:30 am, May 2
30 minutes
comfortable pace, need to push myself at the end next run
7:00 pm, May 2
1 hour
comfortable pace walking with friends
Track your fitness activities including time/date, type of activity, length of time and comments

Fitness Journal

Fitness journals can be purchased or consider making your own. After the fitness assessment has been completed, your journey can begin.

Track your progress.

Set measurable goals.

Set a date to retake fitness assessment. (perhaps every 3 months)

Reread your journal to assess progress and celebrate accomplishments.

Taking the fitness assessment is step one in your plan for a healthy lifestyle.

Step two is to implement your fitness plans and goals!

Best of Luck!

Be Fit! Be Happy!

© 2012 Karen Lackey


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    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Karen! Glad you found it useful!

    • KarenCreftor profile image

      Karen Creftor 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      A very useful hub thank you!

      It's nice to finally understand blood pressure numbers :D

      *voted up*

      ~Kaz x