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Fitness assessments consist of different types of tests and exercises used to determine your overall health and physical fitness level. These tests typically assess your strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Fitness tests are required for physically demanding jobs, such as police officers, firefighters, and military personnel. Fitness assessments can also help you, or your personal trainer, figure out an appropriate fitness routine and goals.

Read on for an in-depth look at the various types of fitness tests, what they’re used for, and the benefits they bring.

A variety of fitness assessments are available, allowing you to choose the most appropriate type to meet your needs and goals.

Body composition testing

Body fat tests are ideal for people who want to lose excess weight or check for any health risks. Below are some of the most common ways to test your body composition.

Type of testWhat it measures
body mass index (BMI) A body mass index (BMI) test can indicate if you have a healthy body weight, but it doesn’t tell how much body fat you have.
waist circumference measurement You can measure your waist to see if it’s more than 37 inches for men or 31.5 inches for women, or if it’s greater than your hip measurement. If so, you could be at higher risk for stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
skinfold measurement A skinfold measurement test uses calipers to measure the amount of body fat present in a skinfold.
bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) This method uses a body fat scale to measure your body fat percentage by running small electrical currents through your body and testing for resistance. Higher levels of resistance indicate more body fat.

Additional body composition testing options

Most expensive, comprehensive tests done in a university, research, or medical facility are likely to provide more accurate results.

These types of tests include:

  • dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • hydrostatic weighing
  • air displacement plethysmography (Bod Pod)
  • bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS)
  • 3-D body scanners
  • multi-compartment models

Several types of cardiorespiratory endurance tests are available to calculate how effectively your heart and lungs deliver oxygen throughout your body while you exercise.

VO2 tests

VO2 tests show how much oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is used when you’re doing intense exercise. Higher levels of oxygen uptake indicate that your cardiorespiratory system is working effectively.

You can do VO2 tests with a clinician or exercise physiologist in a medical setting.

Submaximal tests

A qualified fitness instructor can perform submaximal tests to determine your cardiorespiratory endurance. These include the:

  • Astrand treadmill test
  • 2.4 kilometer (1.5 mile) run test
  • multistage bleep test
  • Cooper 12-minute walk-run test
  • stationary bike, rowing machine, or elliptical trainer test

Strength and endurance tests help determine which of your muscles and muscle groups have the most strength, as well as which ones are weaker and at risk of injury.

A strength test measures the maximum load a muscle group can lift with one repetition. An endurance test calculates for how long a muscle group can contract and release before you become exhausted.

Examples of endurance tests include:

  • squats
  • pushups
  • low plank holds

You can use flexibility tests to check for postural imbalances, range of motion, and any areas of tightness. These include:

Sit-and-reach test

To measure how flexible your lower back and hamstrings are, sit on the floor with your legs fully extended in front of you. The distance that your hands are from your feet will determine your flexibility.

Shoulder flexibility test (zipper test)

This test measures how mobile and flexible your upper arms and shoulder joints are. Reach one hand behind your neck and down along your spine. Then bring your opposite hand behind your back and up toward your top hand.

You can measure your flexibility by how close your hands are to each other.

Trunk lift test

Trunk lift testing is used to find out the flexibility of your core and low back. Lie down on your stomach with your arms alongside your body. Use your back muscles to raise your upper body as high as you can.

For work

Fitness tests can give you an accurate portrayal of your fitness level, any possible health concerns, and your suitability for a specific job.

Passing a fitness test will ensure that you’re capable of doing the job while reducing your risk for injury. It can also help establish whether you require any modifications or restrictions.

For personal fitness goals

You can use your test results to figure out which type of exercise and weight loss plans will work best for you and to set appropriate goals. You can also compare your results to people in your age and gender group to get an idea of how you compare.

As you progress, you can use your baseline results as a benchmark when you measure your results later.

For health risk prevention

You can also use your results to see whether you have any cause for concern. Certain abnormal results could indicate the possibility of a potential injury or health risk, allowing you to take preventive action or start a treatment plan.

Certain professions require you to pass a fitness assessment. This ensures that you’re in good health and will be able to adequately perform all duties of a physically challenging job.

Some less physically challenging jobs may also require that you pass a basic physical during the hiring process.

U.S. military personnel

To enter the military, you’ll need to take a fitness test to enter and another test every 6 months afterward. Tests vary between the branches. The Marine Corps is the most difficult.

These fitness tests include some of the following components:

  • pullups
  • situps or crunches
  • pushups
  • running
  • swimming
  • kneeling basketball throw

In 2020, the U.S. Army will introduce the Army Combat Fitness Test. It will consist of:

  • deadlifts
  • standing power throw
  • hand-release pushups
  • sprint-drag-carry
  • leg tucks
  • 2-mile run

Firefighter

To become a firefighter, you must pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). It tests your cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength and endurance.

The CPAT includes the following components. They must be completed in under 10 minutes and 20 seconds:

  • stair climb
  • hose drag
  • equipment carry
  • ladder raise and extension
  • forcible entry
  • search
  • rescue
  • ceiling breach and pull

Police officer

To become a police officer, you must pass a physical abilities test (PAT) made up of the following components:

  • slalom run
  • stair climb
  • rescue dummy drag
  • single-handed trigger pulls
  • 1.5-mile run
  • pushups or situps
  • bench press

Lifeguard

To become a lifeguard, you’ll need to display strong swimming and water rescue skills. Requirements will vary between pool, beach, and open water lifeguards.

Lifeguards also need to be trained in CPR, first aid, and caring for neck and back injuries.

You can do certain types of tests on your own if you simply want the results for personal use. For more accurate and in-depth results, consult a doctor, medical researcher, or personal trainer.

Fitness tests are reliable, but keep in mind that these tests are only one marker of your overall health. You may want to look at several components of your health and fitness levels to get a more complete picture.

Fitness tests for children measure aerobic fitness, strength, and flexibility. They’re often done through the physical education program at school. Through these tests, children can see how healthy and fit they are and set goals for improvement.

The Presidential Youth Fitness Program is one of the most common fitness testing programs in schools. This program helps achieve excellence in fitness education and testing practices.

Schools can use the test results to improve their programs and ensure the instructors are teaching at the highest level, and that children are meeting or surpassing the national averages.

Testing results can also indicate the overall health of students as well as any possible health risks.

There are many benefits to fitness testing. You can use your results in several ways. Results from fitness tests may be a reliable marker of your health and suitability for a specific job.

Keep in mind that more expensive, comprehensive tests with a professional are likely to yield the most accurate results.

You may wish to track your measurements every few weeks or months to note any improvements or changes. Talk to your doctor or a fitness professional if you notice any changes that could be cause for concern, or if you’d like to modify your routine.