Four Fitness Tools to Rock Your Body

By: Jennifer Macko, University Health Center, Peer Educator; University Recreation & Wellness, Fitness Instructor

Have you ever wondered how “in shape” you are? Fitness can be hard to measure because there are so many different measurement strategies out there. I am going to introduce you to four dimensions of physical fitness measurement:  body composition, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.


bod pod

It might look like some sort of spacecraft, but it’s actually the BOD POD – a very accurate way to measure your body composition.

Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body. BMI (Body Mass Index) is an indirect way to measure body composition.

What is BMI?

BMI is a measure of relative weight based on mass and height.

For both gender and age, there are guidelines for what is underweight, healthy, and overweight. Both ends of the spectrum are associated with negative health consequences. For those in the underweight category, eating disorders, bone loss, and hormone imbalances can be found. On the other end of the spectrum, having a BMI over 30 kg/m makes a person more susceptible to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack, and stroke.

BMI                                                                                   Weight Status

Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

Source: CDC

How do I find my BMI?

Calculate it yourself:

Use the equation:

BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

Use RecWell:

We have a state of the art “BodPod” to measure body composition using “air densitometry”.

    • Set up an appointment with RecWell Member Services.
    • For $33, RecWell members can have a full fitness assessment, including resting heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, muscular strength, and flexibility.

A side note on BMI: It does not account for body type. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his prime, would have a BMI within the obese range, even though his body fat was most likely in the single digits.

If you are very muscular, take your BMI calculation with a grain of salt OR sign up for a BodPod test. Using your volume, mass, and a very long equation, the BodPod estimates your percentage of body fat and lean body mass (fat free mass).


Cardiovascular fitness refers to how well your heart, blood cells, and lungs supply oxygen-rich blood to your muscles when you move. It is also how well your muscles are able to use this oxygen to produce energy for movement.

Use RecWell:

Once again, RecWell offers fitness testing to members, including a test for cardiovascular fitness:

  • On a “cycle ergometer” (aka a stationary bike), a personal trainer will run you through a “submaximal VO2 test”
  • This test is a reflection of how efficiently your body is able to use oxygen. Generally, the higher your cardiovascular fitness, the higher your VO2, and the greater your capacity to do aerobic activities.

The submaximal exercise test can give you a general picture about your cardiovascular health. Though it may not be as accurate as an absolute VO2max test, you can get an idea of how aerobically fit you are.

On your own:

Use an online calculator following the “Rockport Walking Test” to estimate your VO2max.

  • This test is less accurate and not ideal for people under 26 years of age who are typically of high cardiovascular fitness.

To work on your aerobic fitness, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week for heart health and fitness maintenance. If you are not quite there, try to add 15 minutes to your weekly routine, little by little.



Strength is a little less cut and dry than aerobic ability when it comes to analyzing your fitness. This is because you can train with three different purposes:

  1. Endurance– how many times/how long you can repeat the exercise
  2. Strength– how much you can lift
  3. Hypertrophy– muscle growth, an increase in size (muscle fiber diameter)

1 Rep Max:

  • A great way to build your weightlifting routine is to figure out your 1 rep max, the largest amount of weight you can lift in one repetition
  • To do this: choose a weight you can lift 1-12 times, and lift it until you can repeat no more.
  • Find out your 1RM based on the number of repetitions you can complete:
    • 1 = 100% of your 1RM, 2 = 95%, 3 = 90%, 4 = 88%, 5 = 86%, 6 = 83%, 7 = 80%, 9 = 76%, 10 = 75%, 11 = 72%, 12 = 70%
    • Example: I lift 6 repetitions of 100 pounds. 6 reps = 83%
    • 100 pounds is 83% of my 1RM, so 100% of my 1RM is 100/.83 = 120.5 pounds
  • Use your calculated 1RM to build your training plan:
  • For Endurance Training:
    • Lift less than 50% of your calculated 1RM, do 15-20 repetitions, and complete 1-2 sets
  • For Strength and Hypertrophy:
    • Lift 60-80% of your calculated 1 RM, do 8-12 repetitions, and complete 2-4 sets



Flexibility is one of the more ignored aspects of fitness, but it is extremely important for injury prevention and joint health. Stretch after hard workouts to reduce muscular soreness and improve recovery as well as to improve your range of motion.

Not only does stretching do wonders for your joints, muscles, and posture in general, but it can be a great stress reliever. If you have trouble stretching on your own, stop by Functional Training Studio and try out the foam rollers or take a yoga class.

Try out these three stretches and see where you currently are with your flexibility.

  1. Sit and reach
  2. Trunk rotation
  3. Groin flexibility

Why should you test and work on your flexibility?

  1. Decrease your muscle stiffness and increase range of motion
  2. Reduce your risk of injury
  3. Help relieve post-exercise aches and pains
  4. Improve your posture
  5. Reduce or manage your stress
  6. Reduce muscular tension and enhance muscular relaxation
  7. Improve mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance
  8. Prepare your body for stress of exercise
  9. Promote circulation
  10. Decrease your risk of lower-back pain

Source: ACE Fitness

Whether you’re trying to make a change in your exercise routine, form a brand new fitness plan, or just assess your fitness, consider using some of these tried-and-true fitness measurements to assess and track your progress!

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