Are You Physically Fit? Simple Tests Will Tell You

Everyone who heads to the gym regularly – even daily – isn’t fit. Like the lady bending into pretzel-like yoga poses.  Or the power-lifter bench pressing 250 pounds.  Even that guy on the elliptical machine 90 minutes a day.  How can people in such great shape not be fit?

Ask any physical trainer, health professional or professional athlete.  They’ll talk about three components to physical fitness.  Being a pro at one or two doesn’t always mean you’re physically fit.


The Three Components of Physical Fitness

Fitness Tests Cardiovascular endurance:  Your body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues (via your heart, arteries, and blood vessels) for a sustained period of time.  Good examples of “aerobic activity” are running or walking at a brisk pace, swimming laps without stopping, or taking a zumba class


Fitness Tests Muscular strength and endurance:  The ability of your skeletal muscles (muscles that move your arms, legs, torso, etc.) to exert force for a brief period – strength – and to sustain the force for an extended time – endurance.   For example, it takes strength to lift a barbell off the ground and endurance to do 12 “reps.”


Fitness Tests Flexibility:  Being able to move your joints and muscles their full range of motion.  Flexibility is important to avoid injury. Scratching your back is a good example of arm and shoulder flexibility.


Put Yourself to the “Physical Fitness” Test

Here are some simple tests you can do on your own to test your physical fitness (they don’t require fancy equipment): Cardiovascular fitness:  
  • Time how long it takes to run 1.5-miles. (It’s okay to walk at times if you need to.)  More than 12 minutes?  Your cardiovascular health could use a boost.  Less than 10 minutes?  You’re aerobically fit.
  • Climb five flights of stairs without stopping.  If you can do it, your heart and lungs are strong.
Strength and endurance:
  • Do as many push-ups as you can. (Ladies, on your knees. Men, on your toes.) 30 or more indicates good upper-body strength and endurance. Less than 30 means you need to work those muscles. If you can only do five, shoot for 10 next week, and so on.
  • Lean your back against a wall with your knees bent 90 degrees, as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Holding this pose for 30 seconds indicates good leg strength and endurance.
  • Touch your toes without bending your knees and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Raise your arm over your head, then bend the elbow until your hand touches your back.  If you can do these stretches, you’re pretty flexible.  If not, it’s time to start stretching daily.

To be truly fit, the weight lifter needs to add aerobic activity and stretching to his routine.  The yoga guru should add aerobic exercise.  And the elliptical pro needs to add weight training and stretching to his fitness regimen.  What about you?  Work with a trainer or your doctor to take steps to get yourself physically fit.

Meet the Author

Daniel O'Hair, MD is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon. He also serves as the director of the Surgical Robotics Program at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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