To adequately prepare for starting a personal fitness program, it is important to first assess your current level of fitness. There are multiple methods for assessing a person’s level of fitness. Each of the walking/jogging assessments discussed here attempts to estimate a key physiological marker of the heart’s and lungs’ functioning capacity and maximal oxygen consumption. Maximal oxygen consumption, or VO2 max, measures the body’s maximum ability to take in and utilize oxygen, which directly correlates to overall health and fitness. A good estimate of VO2 max provides a one- time glance at a person’s health and fitness level and a baseline measurement for reassessment at future dates to gauge improvements.
Some of the most common walking/jogging assessments used to estimate VO2 max include the 12-Minute Walk, 1.5-Mile Run/Walk Test, 3-Minute Step Test, and 1- Mile Walk Test. Unfortunately, these field assessments, although practical and inexpensive, only provide estimations. More accurate assessments require a lab- based VO2max test using equipment that measures the volume of oxygen and carbon dioxide being moved in and out of the air passages during exercise. Although this test is more accurate, the expense and availability make it impractical for most. Unlike the lab test, the field assessments are relatively cost free, user-friendly and require very little expertise to conduct or perform. In addition, the key point of the assessment is measuring differences rather than absolute values, and the field tests accurately meet that objective.
Information on how to safely perform these assessments will be provided at the end of this chapter.