How do you measure fitness progress? This isn't always clear or easy as often you won't be making the the progress you want to. There are many ways to measure progress to see if you are meeting fitness goals. Here are the 12 most common ways.
1. Body Weight
The most obvious first choice, and what most people think of, is body weight. This is an easy way to measure if you are meeting your own SMART fitness goals. Most people start a fitness program with the goal to “lose weight”. If you are hiring a personal trainer, like myself, that is definitely the most common thing we hear. 🙂
I do caution though that weight loss may not always be a good thing. What if you lost muscle? Would you be ok with that? Probably not. Most also don't realize that muscle tissue ways more than adipose tissue, a fancy term for fat. It also won't measure body composition changes.
2. Body Composition
Typically most people are actually looking for changes in body composition. What does this specifically mean?
The definition I hear from most people is that they want to “look better” which essentially means less fat and more muscle. You can gain more muscle, which is heavier, and lose fat. That's why with number #1 Body Weight it may not tell the whole story.
To measure Body Composition you can do skinfold and circumference measurements. These typically make most clients feel uncomfortable so I don't do them.
3. Body Size
Lean tissues takes up less space than fat tissue. That means if you are losing fat your body size will get smaller.
I encourage you to measure this by your clothes. Are some of your clothes loose or to large? That means your body size is changing.
4. Emotional Health
If you ever work with me, something I put a strong focus on is emotional health and well being. Fitness and exercise often leads to measurable improvements in sleep quality, energy, and general mood. Clients also report that they feel less stressed and irritable after a workout sessions.
This isn't a surprise since during exercise that is the only time your body releases endorphins besides when you sleep. Endorphins are hormones that give you positive feelings. Exercise = feeling good. 🙂
5. Resting Heart Rate
People that are brand new to an exercise program will often see a decrease in resting heart rate (RHR). The best way to measure this is to do it first thing in the morning or right before you to to sleep at night.
6. Muscular Strength and Endurance
A clear and easy way to measure fitness progress. Are you lifting more weight? Are you able to do more repetitions than before?
This is an easily measured fitness goal and something that most people look to improve.
7. Walking Test
A timed walking test can be a great indicator of improved fitness level. Sounds easy? Well you would be surprised by how little walking some people do these days, especially here in the US. Walking for long periods of time is a good exercise.
Something I caution people about measuring but still something to measure. As someone who isn't the most flexible I can tell you improving flexibility takes a long time. Unless you are born with great flexibility improving genes, in which case I don't like you very much. 🙂
If you participating in balance exercises as part of your fitness program, then by all means this is a good way to measure progress.
10. Skill Level
Do you participate in fitness activities such as soccer, football, tennis, golf, rock climbing? If you see improvement in motor-skills this means your fitness routine is working. Assessments can be done to measure but often clients find they just feel themselves having a better back-hand tennis swing.