What defines a physically fit person?
July 3, 2008 8:00 AM   Subscribe

What performance measures, tasks, challenges or metrics should be included on a comprehensive list of human fitness?

In order to keep myself challenged and motivated I am trying to create a comprehensive list that defines fitness. This is proving harder than I thought since people do not necessarily agree on what being "fit" means.

Nevertheless, certain limitations aside, what are some measures of fitness that you think a physically fit person should be able to achieve?

I have done some Googling on physical exams for police and fire depts but I'm not having much luck finding comprehensive lists of measurable tasks. So far, I have: being able to jog 5K, being able to bike 30K, doing 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups, completing a 75 yard dash with small obstacles and turns in under 17 seconds and having a body fat percentage of less than 15%.

What is a good swimming metric? Leg strength? Flexibility?

These tasks should be challenging, a true measure of fitness that takes training to achieve but does not require elite level skills (for example, completing an Ironman-level triathlon is a bit over the top).

Ideally, the list would cover cardio endurance, muscle endurance, muscle strength and flexibility across the entire body.

I am 6'2", 180 lbs, male and workout regularly if that matters but I am seeking a more general list of challenges that could apply to almost anyone in great shape.

I am not seeking diet or exercise advice nor asking for workout plans on how to meet the challenges, just help making a list of challenges. Thanks.
posted by pixlboi to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We had a fitness "pre-test" in college (to see how much PE we would have to take, if any). Some of the things I remember are

# of pushups in a given time (90 seconds, maybe?)

# of crunches "

Grip test (little machine that looked like a staple gun)

Shoulder flexibility (lying on the floor, forehead down, arms like superman but holding a rod, then measure, with a ruler, how high you can lift your arms)

1.5 mile run within 12 minutes

Swimming x distance within x time (sorry, don't remember the time or distance)

Treading water for 3 minutes
posted by Pax at 8:17 AM on July 3, 2008

I've read that squatting 1.5x your own body weight is supposed to be a good benchmark for overall strength. Deadlifting is another good test. Here is a table of strength standards for different lifts.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:27 AM on July 3, 2008

Triathlons come in more than just the Ironman distance.
Ironman= 2.4m swim / 112m bike / 26.2m run (140.6m total)
Half-Iron 70.3 series = 1.2m swim / 56m bike / 13.1m run
Olympic distance = 1.5km (.9m) swim / 40km (25m) bike / 10km (6.2m) run
Sprint triathlon = ~500m swim / ~10-20km bike / 5km run

Try a tri. You'll be entered in your age group, so you'll have stats to compare with others of your age. Do the same tri annually to mark your fitness progress.

There are all-female tris, shorter tris, ultra tris, mountain bike tris, tris for fun (no timing), duathlon (no biking), aquathon, etc.
posted by lothar at 8:35 AM on July 3, 2008

Bench press 1x body weight
Squat 1.5x body weight
Deadlift 2x body weight
6 pull ups
8:00 minute mile
posted by Khalad at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

The standard definition of physical fitness that I was taught in school involved 4 key aspects: cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and balance. I don't have any particularly good metrics for any of these, but I wanted to make sure you don't neglect balance if you are trying to make a really comprehensive list.
posted by vytae at 9:09 AM on July 3, 2008

Measurement for Evaluation

Basic abilities are identified with the statistical method called factor analysis.

The physical ability tests that are most appropriate for evaluating athletes are:
: Aerobic capacity or VO2 Max
: Body composition, either percent body fat or weight partitioned into fat weight and fat-free weight
: Muscular strength
: Power
: Running speed, typically 40- or 50-yard dash
: Vertical or standing long jump
: Agility run test that duplicates the athlete's movement patterns

Muscular strength: the maximum force that a muscle group can exert over a brief period of time. {1RM is a norm.}

Muscular power: maximum force released in the shortest possible time. {Stationary cycles now often display watts. Running up a flight of stairs is a valid surrogate.

Agility: shuttle run is a common test.}

{This is mostly direct quotation, with my own comments in curly brackets.}
posted by dragonsi55 at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2008

I think you are talking about something above & beyond simple physical fitness. for example 100 pushups. to me fitness is maximizing long term health & being able to do the physical things you want or need to do.
posted by canoehead at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2008

pixlboi - Your list is missing endurance activities. A 5K run or a 30K bike ride is a short burst of activity. Endurance is essential to fitness - marathons (26.2!) or century rides are great endurance activities, but perhaps a bit extreme for most people. A half marathon or 20K run is a better benchmark of endurance.
posted by 26.2 at 9:50 AM on July 3, 2008

Crossfit is a popular new workout movement that's focused on functional fitness, and one of the affiliate gyms created a set of athletic skill levels to rank yourself against to measure well-rounded fitness.

Even if you're not doing Crossfit, the athletic skill levels give you a good, well-rounded set of goals to work towards, and includes many things that you wouldn't normally think of (which is what I think you're asking for).

Some examples:

Rowing (with Concept2 indoor rowers)
Olympic barbell lifting
Rope climbing
Dips on gymnastic rings
posted by jpeacock at 11:01 AM on July 3, 2008

The crossfit ones are great, but don't include any endurance activites-the longest run is 1 mile. If I were you, I would pick one of the crossfit benchmarks, and add a few endurance tests as well
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 11:56 AM on July 3, 2008

The U.S. Marshall (sp?) service has fitness standards for men and women in different age groups. You should be able to find it on the web (iPhone: no linky).
posted by neuron at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2008

As far as I'm concerned, the absolute best measure of all-around general physical fitness is without a doubt the 500 meter erg. (An erg is a rowing machine. The Concept2 mentioned by jpeacock above is the best one.)

Check item #3 in this article for more details.
posted by GatorDavid at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2008

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