5 Elements of a Great Fitness Assessment

Eamonn Curley
10 December 19
10 min read

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As a fitness business owner, there are many areas to cover to make sure a member has the best experience possible. The ultimate goal of providing a great member experience is to get the member results. One of the areas that can be often overlooked is the fitness assessment.

New members can enter your gym for the first time in varying degrees of fitness. Some may be in good shape and looking for a more challenging workout. Others though may be starting from the very beginning, and may feel slightly intimidated entering the gym for the very first time.  

In any case, a fitness assessment is a great way to measure where a new member is on their fitness journey. Real-life data on a person’s fitness level drives motivation as it gives them a baseline to work from. People like to see numbers and it gives them a clear idea of where they are at and, more importantly, where they need to go. 

A really worthwhile assessment goes beyond blanket tests and guesses. The best gyms and studios around use data-driven, in-depth and highly personalized assessments to determine what exactly the member needs to achieve. 

Ed Haynes, a Hong Kong based studio owner, explained on an episode of our podcast the importance of running an assessment for new members. His Fundamentals Program assesses and prepares new members for the types of workout programs he runs. Listen to the episode after reading this article for some great advice on this topic and more. 

In this article, we will take a look at what exactly a fitness assessment is, the factors to consider before creating one, and 5 elements every fitness assessment needs. 

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What is a Fitness Assessment?

A fitness assessment evaluates your overall health and physical fitness levels through a series of tests. There could be several purposes for fitness testing, such as:

  • Measuring the current fitness levels when a person joins a gym 
  • Tracking the progress of the members after a period of time in a new gym 
  • Determining fitness to participate in an organization that requires vigorous, physical activity. For example, the military or police force.
  • Determining your general health.

For this article, we will mainly focus on an assessment that you can use as a fitness business owner. The goal of these types of assessments is to come up with the right exercise program for your members. There a couple of key things to consider before creating your assessment which we will go through next. 

Things to Consider Before Giving a Fitness Assessment

There are a few things to consider when you first sit down to plan out your fitness assessment. You need to factor in their age, injury history, and what their ultimate goals are. All of these need to be carefully considered so you the best results possible for the member. 

As well as that you need to remember that the assessments need to be highly individualized so members have the best springboard possible to get the results they want. Let’s take a closer look at the factors to consider. 

The Persons Age

Factoring in a person’s age gives you an idea of the level and intensity the member should perform. The WHO has based the amount of physical activity they recommend on three age groups:

  • 5-17 years — At least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity.
  • 18-64 years — At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity throughout the week.
  • 65+ years — At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity throughout the week.

When administering a fitness assessment, consider a closer look at the age of the individual in question. This will help create a more individualized plan, which in turn increases the likelihood that the client will stick it through.

Injury History

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that people will likely pick up injuries in their lifetime. Exercise will always be at a certain intensity so there is always a risk someone could aggravate an old injury or pick up a new one. 

There’s a lot of value in putting together a questionnaire at the very beginning of the process to figure out exactly the injury history of the person. This way you can tailor the assessment and the following program to ensure they get the right results – without exposing them to injury

Goals They Want to Hit

A person joins a gym for one thing – results. Again using a questionnaire, either during the sales process or when the person joins, is a fantastic way of gathering key information such as goals. 

When you know what the person wants to achieve, be it weight loss, muscle gain or conditioning for a sport, you can then create a suitable and accurate baseline for them to begin their journey.

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5 Elements of a Great Fitness Assessment

When you know what the person wants to achieve, be it weight loss, muscle gain or conditioning for a sport, you can then create a suitable and accurate baseline for them to begin their journey. 

Using the factors we have discussed, you would then create a fitness assessment using the following five elements: health evaluation, body composition tests, cardiovascular endurance tests, body strength tests, and joint flexibility tests. 

These tests are made up of a series of exercises to measure your overall health, current fitness levels, or progress after following through with a fitness plan.

1. Health Evaluation

A great fitness assessment begins with a health evaluation. Be open about all relevant health-related information. In some cases, it might actually be wise to get your doctor’s approval before following through with a fitness assessment.

A common tool used by qualified fitness professionals to determine your baseline health is a PAR-Q — a physical activity readiness questionnaire. The National Academy of Sports Medicine provides a free 2-page PAR-Q online that can help you decide whether you’re ready for physical activity, or if to consult your doctor beforehand.

Other information relevant to your general health includes:

  • Standing height — Standing height is measured barefooted, standing straight and upright. It helps determine whether you’re experiencing adequate, healthy growth, versus whether you’re developing any kind of bone loss.
  • Bodyweight — Taken together with standing height, your body weight can determine your body mass index (BMI). BMI can give an idea of your health risks, if any, and whether you are overweight. It is by no means a completely accurate tool but taken together with other information gained during your general health evaluation, it comes in very handy.
  • Resting heart rate (RHR) — RHR refers to your heart beat per minute (BPM) while at rest. This is best done first thing in the morning, while still in bed. It is a great indicator of heart health. An RHR of 60 – 100 BPM is normal for adults, but it’s best to keep it under 90 BPM.

2. Body Composition

Your entire body composition is more relevant than body weight measurement. Your body composition is the proportion of your body fat and your non-fat mass (bones, muscles, and organs). It helps determine your health and fitness levels by indicating your body fat percentage. Less body fat and higher non-fat mass indicates a healthy body composition.

There are several tools for measuring body composition. We touched on BMI, but a height and body weight calculation leaves a lot of information out. To get a better idea of your body composition, also use:

  • Calipers — These are used for skinfold measurements to estimate how much fat is under the skin.
  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) — This method involves electrodes that pass weak electrical currents throughout the body to determine body fat and muscle mass.

3. Cardiovascular Endurance

Your cardiovascular fitness refers to your endurance during exercise. This component of the fitness assessment focuses on how much oxygen and energy your lungs and heart supply your body during physical activity over a period of time. Studies show that cardiovascular exercises correlate with reduced risks of chronic and heart disease. The longer you last during an aerobic fitness exercise without getting tired, the healthier your lungs and heart are. Common ways to test this are:

  • Treadmill/stationary bike tests — Stress tests on a treadmill or stationary bike involve running or riding for an extended period of time, and comparing pre-test and post-test heart and respiration rates. Your vital signs can be measured with a blood pressure cuff and heart rate monitor.
  • Sit-up and push-up tests — Some fitness professionals will include push-ups and sit-ups to determine your endurance response to different types exercises, rather than aerobics alone.

4. Muscle Strength and Endurance

Testing muscle strength and endurance is an essential component of a great fitness assessment. These tests can help to determine what areas to target in a fitness plan.

Like cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance measures how long your body can last during exercise. But the focus is not on aerobic tests, but on strength tests — evaluating the amount of time a particular muscle group contracts before fatigue.

Common tests fitness trainers use to determine muscle strength and endurance include:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats (or sitting down and getting up from a chair, repeatedly)
  • Core and stability tests such as planks  

To determine baseline levels and health, the results are then compared to those in similar age and gender groups.  

5. Joint Flexibility

Flexibility tests determine the range of motion of your joints. The focus is on muscle and connective tissue in the many joints and groups of joints in your body. There are different views of the relevance of this particular component to your health and fitness. Some believe increased flexibility has health benefits, while others point out that there isn’t enough research supporting that claim or any contrary claim.

However, increased flexibility is known for preventing and relieving pain, correcting posture, preventing and musculoskeletal injury. These benefits make it essential to any workout regimen.

Flexibility is tested with stretching exercises, such as reach tests that target your lower back and hamstring muscles. But recent studies show that stretching before you exercise actually impedes performance. However, the relieving benefits are clear, and so a great fitness professional will figure out a way to incorporate stretching into your exercise plan to maintain flexibility. This may include:

  • Standalone flexibility exercises that are not followed by other types of exercises.
  • Stretching after other types of exercises.
  • Stretching at non-exercise times — for example, at your desk in the middle of your work shift.

In Summary

The health benefits of exercising have become common knowledge. However, some adults fail to keep up with their recommended fitness plans. Perhaps this has a lot to do with blanket recommendations that may become a bit too routine and boring after a while.

A great fitness assessment can solve this by personalizing both the fitness test and the resulting fitness plan. Consider age, injury history and goals while conducting the fitness tests, and especially while crafting fitness recommendations.

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