5 levels of fitness

Measuring Your Personal Fitness Level

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:

  1. Aerobic or cardiovascular endurance
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body composition

Thorough fitness evaluations include exercises and activities that specifically measure your ability to participate in aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise as well as your muscular strength, endurance, and joint flexibility. Special tools are also used to determine your body composition or percentage of total body fat.

Working to optimize each of these five components of fitness is crucial to enhancing your overall fitness and general health.

Fitness: How to Develop an Action Plan

If you have specific health problems, check with your doctor before implementing a routine to boost fitness. Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you have no more excuses. To improve your fitness level, take these important steps:

  • Follow U.S. guidelines for the minimum amount of exercise. That means exercising at a moderate intensity level for at least 2.5 hours spread over most days each week. At least twice a week, supplement aerobic exercise with weight-bearing activities that target all major muscles. Avoid inactivity; some exercise at any level of intensity is better than none while you’re building up your endurance.
  • Walking is the easiest way to get started. Get motivated by enlisting a friend to join you and adding variety to your routine. “Walking is simple and manageable for anyone,” says Jill Grimes, MD, a family physician in Austin, Texas. “Wear a pedometer from day one. Think of it in three parts: a five-minute warm-up of walking slowly, followed by a fast walk, then a five-minute cool-down of walking slowly.”
  • Compete only against yourself. No matter what activity you choose for getting fit, never compare your progress to someone else’s. “Do set goals, and if you are out of shape and hate exercise, start low and go slow,” recommends Dr. Grimes. “Do not compare yourself with your best friend who weighs 50 pounds less and just finished her 10th triathlon.” Pivarnik agrees: “Even if the same group of women walked at the same pace every morning, they would not all show the same fitness measures.”
  • Avoid overexertion. One preventive step Pivarnik suggests is checking your resting heart rate before getting out of bed every morning and making a chart so you can see a consistent, but gradual, decrease over time. If your resting heart rate begins to increase, you may be overdoing it. Another indicator of overexertion is muscle soreness that doesn’t go away after a couple days. “People generally err on the side of not pushing themselves enough,” says Pivarnik. “But the worst offenders are those who think they can jump in where they left off — the bunch of 40-year-old guys who think they are still on the high school football team and start running laps, but end up red in the face.”

As you work on improving your fitness, take it slow and steady to avoid injury or burnout. Above all, remember that consistency is key — if you keep at it, your hard work will pay off.

By: Paul Saluan, MD

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Swimming is one of the most popular recreational activities in the world. But swimming is far more than just a sport.

While swimming is a potentially lifesaving skill and a great physical fitness activity, it also can be a tremendous source of fun, a rehabilitation tool, a confidence builder for kids, a lifetime hobby or an ultra competitive sport.

And the good news is you don’t have to swim laps to reap the benefits of swimming.

“There are a wide variety of health and fitness benefits of swimming or physical activity in water,” says physical therapist Basil Strasburg, PT, of Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy.

Swimming also is one of the few physical activities that kids can enjoy without feeling as though they are working out in a structured setting, such as a weight-lifting session at the gym or a dance aerobics class. Playing water games with friends, racing, retrieving rings and other games put kids through a workout that few other forms of exercise can rival.

“So it’s a great way for kids to stay active and be more fit,” he says.

Total core training

One aspect of swimming that makes it a great form of exercise is that when you swim, you are using practically your entire body.

As swimmers propel themselves through the water, the arms pull and the ligs kick against the resistance of the water. Meanwhile, the hip, back and abdominal muscles stabilize the head, trunk and spine, providing a total body work out.

Because water is denser than air, every kick and arm stroke is a resistance exercise, which is the best way to build muscle tone and strength.

And, as an aerobic exercise, swimming strengthens the heart and lungs while promoting better blood flow throughout the body, Mr. Strasburg says.

“Swimming is a total-body sport,” Mr. Strasburg says.

Low-impact training

Unlike running and jumping activities, swimming is minimally stressful on the body’s joints. There’s no ground impact, so your joints are protected from stress and strain, Mr. Strasburg says.

In addition, your body becomes lighter when submerged in water. A body in water up to the chest bears just 25 percent to 35 percent of its weight. When immersed to the neck, the body bears 10 percent of its own weight. The water handles the other 90 percent.

The lack of wear and tear on the body is what makes swimming an excellent form of exercise for young children as well as older adults. Swimming also provides a great form of rehabilitation for injured athletes.

Injuries in swimming

Injuries occur far less often in swimming than in most land sports, but injuries do tend to increase as athletes get more competitive. Shoulder injuries are the most common among swimmers.

“Sports that demand overhead motions, such as baseball, tennis, gymnastics or swimming, can put an athlete’s shoulder through the same motion over and over,” says Paul M. Saluan, MD, Director of Pediatric and Adolescent Sports Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “This can place significant stress on the shoulder, leading to overuse injury.”

Shoulder pain, often called swimmer’s shoulder, is common, Dr. Saluan says.

Overuse of the rotator cuff muscles, scapular muscles and muscles of the upper and lower back can cause pain from fatigue and lead to tendonitis or bursitis. In more severe cases, dislocations or rotator cuff tears are possible, though not common, Dr. Saluan says.

Knee injuries, known as breaststroke knee, can occur when the legs extend and are brought back together during the push-off phase of the kick. This motion puts the inner ligament of the knee, called the medial collateral ligament), under stress, Dr. Saluan says.

This qualification is aimed at learners who want to work in the health and fitness industry.

Learners will cover:

Knowledge and understanding relating to the qualification:

  • Anatomy and physiology covering the heart and circulatory system, the respiratory system, structure and function of the skeleton, musculoskeletal system, postural and core stability, the nervous and energy systems and their relation to exercise
  • How to maintain health, safety and welfare in a variety of fitness environments, including the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults
  • How to communicate with clients effectively and motivate clients to adhere to an exercise programme
  • Employment law, industry specific legislation and procedures that apply to their jobs
  • The subsectors that make up the active leisure and learning sector
  • An understanding of the principles of customer service
  • An understanding of the benefits of a balanced diet and its contribution to a healthy lifestyle
  • How to plan and prepare group exercise sessions
  • How to programme a variety of safe and effective exercise sessions for a range of clients
  • How to instruct a variety of exercise sessions


  • Level of entry onto REPS: Level 2
Total credit value: 59
Guided learning hours: 404
Total Qualification Time: 590
Qualification number: 600/6744/5
YMCA Awards qualification code: QD2QHFE03
Operational start date: 01/10/2012
Download the qualification purpose statement

Download the qualification specification

Want to work more fitness into your busy life? Print this simple chart to help you get a sense of your current fitness level. Aerobic exercise is designed to improve the heart and lungs of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Muscle strengthening is important, especially as we age, to prevent loss of muscle bulk and strength, and overall fitness.

The chart records both aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises. Both are crucial for good health. Aerobic activity can help control weight and can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other conditions. Muscle-strengthening exercises are important for the same reasons but will also boost your metabolism.

Every day, jot down the number of minutes you spent doing aerobic exercise along with any muscle-building activities you did. With strengthening exercise, it’s important to write down the number of repetitions you completed also to show progress. However, the number of repetitions is not as important as the ability to perform the exercise correctly and safely without pain. At the end of the week, see how your totals compare to what’s recommended by the CDC for a healthy adult.

Exercise routines, like all routines, can be modified for variety to keep it interesting as you build this healthy habit.

The benefits of physical fitness for personal development

Originally published April 7, 2018 in the New Zealand Herald.

Personal development can seem like a daunting task when you think about all the improvements you want to make in every area of your life: health, money, career, relationships, education, family, travel/leisure, sports, spiritual growth and so on. So often it seems like you succeed in one area only to see another one neglected. It’s not that you’re not achieving successes, you may be wildly successful in one area and it just seems so hard to succeed across the board.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could simply do one thing to improve yourself and there was a ripple effect? Imagine improving one area of your life, and every other area of your life was improved as a result – kind of like the “all ships rise with the tide” phenomenon. I believe there IS such a thing, and I believe that one thing is physical fitness.

We often think of our personal fitness as being all about “workouts and nutrition” – but TRUE FITNESS is much more about PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT…

The benefits of physical fitness are many. It keeps your muscles and bones strong, controls your weight, disease proofs your body, improves your mood, improves brain function, helps you sleep better, boosts energy and improves your sex life.

And of course, there’s confidence, which is perhaps the most under-rated benefit of being in shape. Nothing boosts your confidence like practicing the habit and discipline of exercise and reaping the rewards – having a level of energetic health and a feel-good body you love. Simply put, fitness can make you happier and help you enjoy ALL of life more.

That is because there are key personal development benefits in good physical fitness. Honing the mind, creating self-discipline, treating the body with respect and setting and achieving goals are all excellent attributes to cultivate.

The mental aspect is one of the key benefits of physical fitness. If you learn the principles of success in fitness you can use them in other areas of life. The attitude it takes to succeed is the same, whatever it is you are trying to achieve.

The physical body is an excellent place to learn and develop the principles of personal development. You can see it and measure it. Progress or lack of it is easily apparent.

So many people do not see results because they set weak goals with weak intentions and give up far too easily.

Somehow we have forgotten that our most important asset is our body and its health and wellness. We cannot reach any our goals, do our work or fulfill our mission and purpose in life if our body cannot support us.

There is no mystery as to what is required to succeed. Proper exercise supported by REAL food is what it takes over a long period of time. You WILL see results if you stick to it.

Once you learn to master the art of goal setting, hone your self-discipline along with developing higher motivation levels you will be able to set your mind to other life goals.

Martial arts are an excellent example of how the body can be used to learn and understand deeper spiritual and mystical aspects of oneself and of life in general.

The importance of physical fitness goes beyond mere physical benefits. The body and mind are deeply interconnected. The benefits of physical fitness are that it sets the tone of constant improvement in a very tangible manner and it has flow on effect throughout the rest of your life.

Improving health and fitness is the easiest one of those to control and it is the easiest one to gain mastery of. Developing your skills there is a good stepping stone to making more serious changes in other areas of your life. The mental transformation that must take place in sync with the physical changes is what makes this a fast path to life transformation.

You will not only be stronger and fitter, but calmer, happier and saner as well. Try it and see for yourself how well it works.

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SummaryArticle Name The benefits of physical fitness for personal development Description Simply put, physical fitness can make you happier and help you enjoy all of life more. Publisher Name New Zealand Herald Publisher Logo

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