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What is Involved in a Fitness Test?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The components of a fitness test can vary based on the purpose of the test; for instance, a test may be given for a number of different reasons, such as for medical purposes, to assess overall health, or to join the military. Each of these tests will be very different, and may even target different areas of the body, and will require various types of preparation. In general, there are a few components to most fitness tests, which include measurements of flexibility, strength, and aerobic endurance, which can help to give more of a complete picture of an individual's overall health.

Some of the most common reasons for a fitness test include health reasons, cardiovascular health in particular. This will typically involve a test of cardiovascular endurance on a treadmill, where heart rate and oxygen intake will be measured. People who have recently suffered an injury may also take a miniature "fitness test" to test strength or flexibility in the injured area of the body to be sure it is healing properly. This will often occur after a period of physical therapy has been completed to determine whether or not more therapy is needed.

Another instance when fitness tests may be given is when an individual signs up for personal training at a gym; it is very likely that the trainer will want to assess existing levels of physical fitness in order to design a training program, and to prevent injury. A fitness test such as this is not something that can be passed or failed. It is simply intended as an assessment. By contrast, fitness tests are also commonly given to individuals who have recently joined the military; these tests tend to be much more strenuous than others, and will often involve running long distances, climbing, strength assessments, and other activities to ensure that individuals are capable of enduring the physical demands of military service.

Schools may also require a fitness test of all students each year to be sure they are getting enough physical activity. This typically measures the time it takes students to run a certain distance, the amount of flexibility they possess by touching the toes, and strength by doing pull-ups or by hanging from a pull-up bar. Each school may measure physical fitness in different ways, however; students are typically not graded on these assessments, but it helps schools to determine the effectiveness of their physical education programs, and to see if they need to be improved.

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Discussion Comments
By KaBoom — On Feb 21, 2012

One interesting thing about military physical fitness tests is that every branch has different requirements. I suppose this makes sense because people in different branches do different jobs, so they need to have different strengths.

I hear that the Marine physical fitness test is the most difficult. However, I'm not sure that this is true, because the person who told me that was a Marine. And we all know how much rivalry goes on between the branches of the US Military! They all say they're the best, their jobs are the hardest, etc.

By ceilingcat — On Feb 20, 2012

@Azuza - I agree with you. Those tests were mortifying, especially when they would measure your body fat with a fat caliper. What is the point anyway?

Also, I have a somewhat unpopular opinion about fitness tests, specifically the Army fitness test. I know that women and men are held to different physical standards during these tests, and I think this is a bad idea. Anyone who is doing a specific job should have to measure up to a specific set of standards.

I'm all for women joining the military, fighting on the front lines, whatever. But you can't dispute that those jobs take a certain level of strength and fitness. It's a disservice to allow unqualified people to do those jobs.

By Azuza — On Feb 20, 2012

I know my opinion might be unpopular here, but I think that administering fitness assessment tests in school is a bad idea. I can remember doing them when I was younger, and I remember how embarrassed some of the bigger and less in shape kids were. Everyone could see how well everyone else did.

Instead, I think that all kids should have to take physical education classes (I think they do anyway). During the classes, the teachers should assess which kids are doing well and which need a little extra help. It's not that hard to figure out! Then, give the kids that are less in shape some extra help without embarrassing them in front of everyone else.

By kylee07drg — On Feb 19, 2012

My preacher's wife is in her fifties, and she has had some issues with her heart. She recently had to have what they call a “stress test,” and all she had to do was walk fast on a treadmill for a few minutes.

She wore a blood pressure cuff and electrodes during the test. These were supposed to measure her vitals and ultimately determine if a problem existed. Also, they were to ensure that she didn't overexert herself to the point of a heart attack or passing out.

She did get out of breath after just a couple of minutes, but they pushed her hard. This is normal, since the test is supposed to stress your heart. She said that they would raise the angle of the treadmill and increase the speed randomly, so she had to struggle to keep up.

Gladly, she passed the test. I guess all those daily walks she had been taking did some good, after all.

By Oceana — On Feb 19, 2012

I have a lot of admiration for people who pass the army physical fitness test. My cousin had to score a certain number of points on his to pass basic training.

When he joined the military, he was a skinny kid. Even though he worked out, he never seemed to put on muscle.

That all changed during his training. He had to endure challenges that he never would have had the motivation to put himself through on his own, and this forced muscle to develop.

By the time he had to take the final test, he was more than ready. He breezed through it and scored high. I was impressed to see how much he had grown when he came home for a visit.

By seag47 — On Feb 18, 2012

@John57 – I wanted to join a gym and have a fitness test, but I simply could not afford it. So, my workout buddy and I developed our own fitness test, and we used it to measure each other's progress as we continued on in our workouts.

We timed each other to see how many pushups and crunches we could do in 30 seconds. We also took a half-mile walk together and timed this, too. We kept a chart so that we could track our success along the way.

I'm happy to report that after six months of regular workouts, we have both improved our fitness levels significantly. I think that keeping an accurate record of it motivated us, as well as informed us of exactly how much we had achieved.

By shell4life — On Feb 18, 2012

I remember being only ten years old and having to take a fitness test at school. Even though the coach told us that we would not be graded on it, I felt a lot of pressure to do well, being the overachiever that I am.

All semester, I had struggled with the stretching exercises. Though I was skinny, it seemed I was nowhere near as flexible as the other students. I simply could not touch my toes, no matter how long I tried.

I did well on the aerobic endurance part, because I could jump rope and run for a long time without getting out of breath. I actually cried after the flexibility portion of the test, because I knew I had failed, and even though that didn't reflect on my grade, I hated that feeling.

By John57 — On Feb 17, 2012

My son works at a local gym as a personal trainer. When he begins working with new clients, part of his training is to have them complete a physical fitness assessment test.

This test is beneficial for both him and his client. He doesn't give every person the exact same test, as each person has different goals and needs.

These fitness tests help him determine how strong and flexible someone is and which areas need the most work.

One of the best ways to avoid injury is to know what your limits are before you even start. Most people are anxious to complete this assessment as it gives them a good overall idea of where they stand when it comes to physical fitness.

By golf07 — On Feb 17, 2012

@myharley - I live in a state where there has been some changes in the education laws when it comes to physical fitness.

Each student is still required to have a certain amount of physical education credits when they graduate, but they begin monitoring this when they are freshman.

When they are in 9th grade, each student takes a physical fitness test to determine their overall fitness. Those who pass this test go on to take the regular physical education classes.

For those students who don't pass this fitness test, they are automatically enrolled in a physical education class that emphasizes personal fitness.

After taking this class for a semester, they are given another fitness test in the spring to see how they have improved. They must remain in this class until they are able to pass the fitness test.

At least there is some kind of follow-up for those who score poorly on the first physical fitness test they take. If they receive low scores, there is a plan to help them improve their level of physical fitness.

By myharley — On Feb 16, 2012

@sunshined - These presidential fitness tests you mentioned are still used in schools across the country.

I think they are even more important than ever because of so many problems with childhood obesity. The health of many of our young people is at stake.

Because of poor eating habits and inactivity many of them are overweight and are at risk for diabetes.

I know that a single test like this isn't the answer, but I believe it can help students become more aware of being physically fit.

I also think it would be beneficial if there was some kind of follow-up program for those who didn't score very well on the fitness test.

If they were shown ways to improve their fitness and health, maybe it would help prevent future problems down the road.

By sunshined — On Feb 15, 2012

When I was in high school we had to take an annual physical fitness test. This was always done during our regular physical education class, and was spread out over the course of a few classes.

I never looked forward to these tests and remember not scoring very high on them. I have never been over weight, and stayed active as a child, but never looked forward to receiving my scores.

The two areas that I scored the lowest in were push-ups and pull-ups. I don't have very good upper arm strength and this was apparent even back then.

Even now, these are the work out exercises I dread doing. I do them now because I know how important they are for me, but they still don't come easy for me.

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