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Levels of Fitness: How Fit are You?

Levels of fitness: How fit are you?
Image by alba1970 from Pixabay
Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog

Levels of Fitness: The Components

Do you know your level of fitness? It’s important to know how fit you are. Knowing how fit you are will help you set goals, track progress, and remain motivated.

How fit you are can be determined by measuring your performance with respect to each one of the five components of fitness.

These are five components of fitness with which you should be concerned. 

1.Cardiorespiratory fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, is “the ability to perform large muscle, dynamic moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise for prolonged periods of time.”

2. Muscular strength is frequently measured as the greatest amount of weight you can lift one time, or one repetition maximum. 

3. Muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to work against sub-maximal resistance for a short period of time.

4. Flexibility is the ability to move your joints unimpeded with full range of motion without pain.

5.Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, and muscle in your body.  


Measuring Levels of Fitness

The following are the tests that measure performance in each component:

Cardiorespiratory Fitness

  • Mile Run
  • Cooper 1.5 mile Walk/Run Test
  • Graded Treadmill Test
  • Step Test


Muscular Endurance

  • Plank Hold
  • Static Squat Test
  • Maximal Push-up Test


Muscular Strength

  • One Repetition Max Test
  • Ten Repetition Max Test
  • Hand Grip Strength Test



  • Seat-and-Reach Test
  • Back Scratch Test


Body Composition

  • Hydrostatic weighing
  • Skinfold test
  • Bioelectrical impedance
  • DEXA


Where Do You Rank?

Cardiorespiratory Fitness

The relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and longevity is well established. Having a high level of CRF is associated with living longer. 

In a 23 year study published in JAMA, the participants who had the highest cardiorespiratory fitness had the lowest mortality rates from all causes.

Maximal volume of oxygen consumed per unit time (VO2max) is the standard measure of cardiorespiratory fitness. 

The best way to measure cardiorespiratory fitness is with a VO2max test, using open-circuit spirometry. The norms that determine your cardiorespiratory fitness level vary by age and sex, as well as by the specific test protocol.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardiorespiratory exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous cardiorespiratory exercise to significantly reduce the risk of disease.

Modes of cardiorespiratory exercise should involve major muscle groups such as running, swimming, bicycling, cross country skiing, stair climbing, high intensity interval training (HIIT), or walking.

Cardiorespiratory fitness can be tested on a treadmill, cycle ergometer, arm ergometer, step test, or with a field test (walking or running).


Muscular Strength and Endurance

One repetition maximum (1-RM) is the most resistance that can be lifted through full range of motion (ROM) is the standard for measuring dynamic strength. 5 to 10-RM can also be used to assess strength.

These strength tests are typically done on the bench press or leg press. 

When assessing muscular endurance, the maximum number of push-ups that can be performed is a good evaluation of upper body muscular endurance. 

Your exercise professional can tell you where you stand regarding strength and endurance based on age and sex. 

If you’re not doing regular strength training, and you’re over 30, you’re losing muscle mass.

Most people lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30.

Age-related loss of muscle mass is known as sarcopenia.

A sedentary lifestyle accelerates sarcopenia.

Strength declines 10% to 15% per decade until age 70.  After age 70, loss of strength accelerates to 25% to 40% per decade.

Muscle protein synthesis and repair capacity decline with age.  Muscular endurance diminishes by 10% per decade.

There’s also a loss of type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers.  The fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for short burst activity.

Increased muscle mass is associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality in people over age 55.

For beginners, 8-10 multi-joint exercises, or compound exercises, that target the major muscle groups is a great starting point, 2-3 times per week.



While normal ranges of motion are established for all joints, flexibility differs from person to person.

Every person has different needs regarding flexibility, but everyone should make flexibility a component of their fitness regimen for optimal fitness. Regular stretching will improve flexibility.

Better flexibility will make your activities of daily living easier. Stretched muscles also contract more forcefully.

Lack of stretching can lead to tighter muscles and pain, such as low back pain.

A therapist or exercise physiologist can measure the range of motion of your joints with a goniometer. 

Static stretching can be done daily, holding each stretch 30 seconds without pain, 2 to 4 times.


Body Composition

While a certain amount of body fat is necessary, having too much or too little can be harmful to your health.

A good range for men is 12% – 23%.  And for women, a good range is 17% – 26%. 

It’s not considered safe for men to go below 3% body fat.  Women are not recommended to go below 10% – 13% body fat.

Healthy body weight can be determined by Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9 and a normal waist circumference is under 40 inches (102 cm) for men and under 35 inches (88 cm) for women.

The higher the BMI is above the normal range, the greater the risk for type II diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

A waist circumference of 40 inches or higher for men, and 35 inches or higher for women, are considered overweight and a high risk for type II diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Having a BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight. BMI can be determined by using a BMI calculator:


Achieving and Maintaining Basic Levels of Fitness

It’s important to remember that your exercise regimen should be multifaceted.

By being evaluated regarding the five components of fitness outlined here, you can discover your level of fitness.

A fitness assessment can identify health barriers to exercise and give you a detailed baseline picture of where your strengths and weaknesses are. A fitness assessment can also help you manage your expectations.

Need help designing a workout? The American Council on Exercise has resources to help you find a fitness professional.

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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Hi, I'm Kent

As a personal trainer, exercise physiologist, and bodybuilder, I’ve dedicated my life to optimal nutrition, fitness and natural remedies. And putting it all into practice. Now I’m taking my experience and knowledge to the next level by helping others through blogging.


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