Evaluating your fitness level is not a one-size-fits-all process. Differences in lifestyle, muscle tissue, genetic makeup, and overall health all help determine your personal fitness level.
“It is an individual measurement that is not always dependent on how much physical activity you do,” notes Jim Pivarnik, PhD, president of the American College of Sports Medicine and director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health at Michigan State University in East Lansing .
So how can you tell if your exercise and healthy diet habits are paying off? There are several ways to measure your fitness level.
The Five Components of Fitness
“Measuring fitness is multi-dimensional,” explains Pivarnik. “Long-distance runners have excellent cardiovascular health, but if all you are is legs and lungs, you won’t have a lot of strength or flexibility. By the same measure, someone who is overweight and aerobically fit is healthier than someone who is in the normal weight range but doesn’t exercise.”
Overall physical fitness is said to consist of five different elements:
- Aerobic or cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular strength
- Muscular endurance
- Body composition
Thorough fitness evaluations include
Physical activity is defined as movement that involves contraction of your muscles. Any of the activities we do throughout the day that involve movement — housework, gardening, walking, climbing stairs — are examples of physical activity.
Exercise is a specific form of physical activity — planned, purposeful physical activity performed with the intention of acquiring fitness or other health benefits, says David Bassett, Jr., PhD, a professor in the department of exercise, sport, and leisure studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Working out at a health club, swimming, cycling, running, and sports, like golf and tennis, are all forms of exercise.
Physical Activity and Exercise: Understanding the Difference
Most daily physical activity is considered light to moderate in intensity. There are certain health benefits that can only be accomplished with more strenuous physical activity, however. Improvement in cardiovascular fitness is one example. Jogging or running provides greater cardiovascular benefit than walking at a leisurely pace, for instance. Additionally, enhanced fitness doesn’t just depend of what physical activity you do, it also depends on how vigorously and for how long you continue the activity. That’s why it’s important to exercise within your target heart rate