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If someone said, “how fit are you?” how might you respond? It would depend on your definition of fitness. A lot of people might look good, but would struggle with a basic fitness test.
Prior to entering military training, candidates must be able to pass a fitness test. Ostensibly, demonstrating that they can meet the minimum requirements (although there is also a recommended benchmark for each test that candidates are encouraged to shoot for in order to set themselves apart) shows that they will be able to endure the more grueling training to come.
Once a year, college football players hoping to make it to the NFL participate in the NFL Scouting Combine. It is essentially a weeklong fitness test during which they demonstrate various physical abilities that will prove to the scouts and coaches in attendance that they will be able to handle the physicals rigors of professional football.
Among the tests administered are the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, the broad jump, and a bench press test where the goal is to see how many reps the prospect can perform with 225 pounds before failing. In 1999 Justin Ernest hit 51 reps!
Firefighters must be able to move quickly and confidently in terrible conditions. The firefighter fitness exam is event-specific, with particular emphasis placed on a candidate’s abilities to drag and carry large weights while wearing firefighter gear.
In one of the events, candidates must climb stairs for three minutes straight while maintaining a pace of sixty steps per minute. All of this is done with a heavy weight vest that mimics the weight of a firefighter’s gear. Another event requires prospects to run for 75 feet with a fire hose draped over their shoulder. Next, the fitness test requires the candidate to turn around and continue carrying the hose for another 25 feet. Finally, while the candidate drops to one knee, the hose must be pulled with arm and back strength alone for the final 25 feet.
The tests above have one thing in common: they are meant to illustrate the physical capabilities of the prospects as they pertain to very specific goals. But what about fitness tests for everyday life? How strong or fit should you strive to be?
If you do not have specific goals, simply aging well and seeking balanced health and strength are the most useful fitness projects you can give yourself. A balanced body will have maximum range of motion, functional strength, cardiovascular health, and more.
Here are some benchmarks that can be achieved by nearly anyone who is not hampered by physical handicaps and/or injuries, and which will reflect a balanced approach to health and strength. Results will obviously vary based on age. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather, a series of fitness tests that anyone can administer to himself or herself, and which represent goals against which to measure one’s progress.
This list could grow much longer, but you are probably getting the idea. Fitness—actually being “in shape”—means being fit to do a lot of different things. It requires balance, strength, a healthy heart, the ability to carry weight, to push and pull against resistance, to enjoy full range of motion and to be able to walk and run with ease. It also requires a plan and an honest assessment of your current abilities. The more things you are willing to test yourself on, the better your body will feel as you age. There is no nobler goal than that.