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Fitness Evaluations and the Exercise Prescription
It is a good idea to get a fitness evaluation before you start an exercise program. A fitness evaluation is different from a health screening performed by your medical doctor. The evaluation is performed by a trained and certified fitness evaluator, and consists of physical measurements and selected tests that determine your level of physical fitness.
Fitness evaluations are usually done in a fitness facility (gym). Most of the time there is a cost for the evaluation and then you will be recommended to retain a personal trainer. When I worked at the YMCA I offered packages for the Fitness Evaluation and two sessions with the trainer for a special price. You may be able to find such a deal. You will need the trainer in the beginning for a few sessions but then you can set up a schedule to check in regularly to determine your improvement, and discuss the next steps in your exercise prescription.
The fitness evaluation begins with standard baseline measurements: height, weight, resting heart rate and blood pressure. The remaining testing procedures are listed below:
•Body Composition. Your lean body weight plus fat weight make up your total body weight. This test determines how much of your total body weight is composed of fat.
•Cardiorespiratory is measured by the Maximum Physical Working Capacity (PWC) Test. It is used to determine the workload at which the heart is expected to reach its maximum value. The greatest value in using the PWC test is for comparison purposes. Once the person is put into a planned workout routine the results of the routine can be regularly evaluated by repeating the test.
•Flexibility is measured using the Sit and Reach method. Sitting on the floor and reaching forward with your hands touching the floor, the length of your reach is measured in feet and inches.
•Muscular Strength and Endurance. There are two tests used in a fitness evaluation to measure muscular strength and endurance. They are the Bench Press Test and the Half Sit-up Test. Both are measured by how many repetitions can be done in one minute.
The Exercise Prescription
The fitness evaluator will do the calculations and interpret your assessment. At this time they will meet with you to discuss your current fitness level. You will then be referred to a certified trainer who will develop your exercise prescription which will include fundamental components crucial to your personal fitness goals and growth.
The information provided here is in accordance to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) position paper for an exercise prescription, which include the recommendations of quantity and quality of exercise training for healthy adults. There are five major factors included in developing the exercise prescription. In order to demonstrate how the excise prescription is applied it is presented here using the three recommended components of exercise.
•Frequency of training: Three to five days per week.
•Intensity & Duration of training: You should get 150 minutes per week. Recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
•Mode of activity: You will want to choose an activity that uses the large muscle groups and can maintain your heart rate continuously and rhythmically.
•Rate of progression: In cardio exercise increasing the exercise level can be done by increasing the intensity of the exercise, the duration of the exercise, or a combination of both.
Muscle Strength and Endurance
•Frequency of training: Minimum of two days per week working all major muscles of the body.
•Intensity: Moderate intensity adequate to develop and maintain lean body tissue.
•Duration of training: One set of 8-12 repetitions will improve strength and power; fifteen to twenty repetitions improve muscular endurance.
•Mode of activity: Variety of 8 to 10 exercises that will work the major muscle groups of the body.
•Rate of progression: Your trainer will advise you on the unique rate of progression for muscular strength and endurance.
•Frequency of training: Minimum of two to three days a week.
•Intensity: Stretch to a position of feeling the stretch and the just a bit beyond. If it hurts don’t do it. Let up and then try it again at a later date when your flexibility has improved through maintained practice.
•Duration of training: Sixty seconds for each stretch.
•Mode of activity: Your trainer will provide you with stretching exercises to perform. You might also want to try yoga, Pilates, or a stretching class.
After you have worked with your exercise prescription for 4-6 weeks meet with the trainer for check-in. The trainer will help you determine if it is time to change one or more of the five factors in the exercise prescription and how to do it. After six months you should repeat your fitness evaluation to measure your improvement and revise your exercise prescription. Be healthy, be happy!
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