Ask most people what is a good level of fitness is and they will say it’s being able to ‘deadlift and squat twice my bodyweight’ or ‘run a marathon under 4 hours’.
This is because we seem to be obsessed with quantifying fitness by the distance your run or the weight you lift. This narrow-minded approach leads to decreases in physical function, chronic pain and injuries.
I’m not saying that setting a target to lift a certain weight or run a certain distance is bad. I’m saying that we need to think about fitness more holistically to ensure your overall physical health and longevity.
People may be able to run long distances and lift a heavy weight but ask them to suddenly change direction or bend down and touch their toes and they can often struggle. This is because their training neglects some fundamental aspects of healthy fitness, such as joint health and a strong core.
A healthy level of fitness needs to take into account core motor skills i.e. speed, mobility, flexibility, coordination, endurance and strength. This entails strength training, cardiovascular exercise, mobility and flexibility exercises such as yoga. The conventional way to
measure a person’s fitness level is through a speed test such as the bleep test. However, this neglects qualities such as mobility and flexibility. Mobility is how well you can take a joint through a range of motion. Flexibility is how well you can perform a static range of motion. It’s important to train both to remain injury free.
It’s much better to perform dynamic mobility movements as part of your warm up and static flexibility movements as part of your cool down.
Below is a basic 4 step fitness test that you can do anywhere to test your core strength, flexibility and mobility.
- Body composition: determine your height to waist ratio. Simply measure your height and your waist circumference with a measuring tape. Your waist circumference should be less than half of your height. As an example, if you’re six feet tall, your waist circumference should ideally be less than 36 inches.
- Core strength: hold plank position for minimum 1 minute. Simply lie down in the press up position but use your elbows to support yourself instead of your hands. Keep your back straight and bum low.
- Flexibility: sit to stand test. The aim is to score 10 points. To perform the test, simply sit down on the floor, and then get up, using as little assistance from your hands, knees, or other body parts as possible. For each body part that you use for support, you’ll lose one point from the possible top score of 10.
- Mobility: squat with shoulder press. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, keep your back straight and lower your bum to your calves to see if you can still keep your heels on the floor and keep your balance. Simultaneously, raise your arms out to the side and above your head to see if you can keep them straight and in line with your body.
There are more advanced methods to test your overall fitness level. However, the key takeaway is that having a good overall level of fitness is more than just being able to run a long distance or lift a heavy weight. It requires a variety of different types of exercises which should not be viewed as an add on to your workouts. Rather, they should be viewed as an essential part of your workout in it’s own right to ensure good health and longevity.