My number one job as a personal trainer is to make my clients more physically fit.
But, sometimes determining our current level of fitness can be a rather subjective thing. For example, We might personally think of ourselves as fit or unfit, but without a way of specifically measuring our baseline and progress, how will we know if our training program is giving us the results we want?
Personally I’m very goal-oriented and if you’re like me you want to know how your fitness level measures up, and have a specific idea of what your goal should be to reach that next level. Fitness testing can sound very intimidating (the word test definitely has some negative connotations), so think of this as more of an “assessment” that can be used to create your fitness plan.
There are a few simple fitness tests that you can do at home to determine your strength in various areas (stay tuned to my blog as I share some others over the next several weeks!), but cardiovascular fitness is the test I’m going to take you through today. How we measure cardiovascular fitness is to look at exercise recovery. That is, how quickly does your heart rate go back down to normal after a bout of exercise?
This 4- minute step challenge is a simple, standardized test that can tell you valuable information about your current cardio fitness level. And, it takes less than 5 minutes!
What You Need:
- 12″ riser or box to step on and off of. 12″ inch the standard height. If yours is slightly higher or lower that is ok , but make sure you use the same height in future tests to avoid altering your results!
- A Stopwatch (your phone app will work just fine!)
- Optional: a heart rate monitor. If you have a FitBit or smart watch that measures your heart rate this will work fine. If you don’t you can just measure your pulse manually. I like to use both my FitBit and a manual pulse to see if I have a consistent result. (Ps they were pretty close when I created the video demo!)
How to do it:
1. Set your stopwatch for 3 minutes
2. Start the timer and being stepping on and off your box (see video below for a full demonstration). You can alternate legs each time or halfway through, just try to keep a consistent pace for the duration of the test. If you need to stop to rest that’s ok, but make sure you stay standing for the whole 3 minutes.
You can check out my demonstration below, but its quite simple so I’m sure you’ll get the gist right away!
3. After the timer ends, set it for another 1-minute (as quickly as possible!) and measure your pulse for that next minute. Your heart rate at the end of the 4 minutes is your final result.
4. Compare your number to these charts and see what your cardiovascular fitness level is at!
If you aren’t feeling jazzed about your result, not to worry! The good news is that you can always improve. If you increase your cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, cycle, stair-climbing, swimming, dancing, etc etc), over time your recovery will improve and your heart rate will come down much quicker. It just takes practice and consistency!
If you aren’t currently getting in 150 minutes per week of cardio exercise, start with that as a goal. If you’re already a regular exerciser but want to take your fitness level even further, try adding some interval training or HIIT workouts into your week to really develop your cardio fitness level.
And remember: You only have to compete with yourself, so focusing on improving YOUR result rather than trying to fit into a specific category.
Want more fitness challenges you can do at home? Check out my other tests below!
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