Fitness Assessments Key to Retention

Oct 24, 2013

Taking the time to perform fitness assessments for your members is invaluable. People like to see numbers and get a baseline of their current fitness level. Assessments give you a way to track and evaluate their progress. When you conduct assessments, you demonstrate the value of your services, and you influence participants to keep investing in your business (McMillan 2010). In other words, implementing assessments can increase member retention. These evaluations can also entice nonmembers to become members, another way to increase your bottom line.

Read on to learn which assessments are key, what they measure and how you can implement them in your facility.

Core Tests to Administer

Strong fitness assessments combine evidence-based tests with clinical expertise. The resulting data provide a comprehensive report that clients and staff can use to improve members’ fitness. The main tests in a fitness assessment evaluate body mass index; resting heart rate and blood pressure; and cardiovascular fitness. These are explored below. Additional tests might be used to evaluate body composition, lung capacity, flexibility and strength.

Body Mass Index

BMI uses height and weight to calculate total body mass. BMI alone is not the best measure of physical fitness, but it does provide a good indicator of whether a person’s weight falls within a normal range. The higher the BMI, the greater the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and certain cancers. The following categories indicate what BMI test scores mean:

  • underweight = <18.5
  • normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • overweight = 25–29.9
  • obese = 30 or greater

Although BMI can be used for most men and women, it does have some limits:

  1. It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build.
  2. It may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle.

To get more information about someone’s body fat content, you might consider hydrostatic weighing, which involves weighing the person underwater. This method of measurement assesses the body’s composition more precisely.

Resting Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Measuring resting heart rate and blood pressure helps determine what levels of increasing heart rate are safe during aerobic exercise. To help members find their training heart rate, use the Karvonen Formula, as explained by the American Council on Exercise® (ACE 2013). First, determine the following heart rate parameters in beats per minute:

Resting heart rate. To get an RHR, have individuals take their pulse at rest (ideally, measured for a full minute first thing in the morning while they’re still in bed).

Maximum heart rate. Either measure this during a maximal exercise test or estimate it by subtracting the individual’s age from 220 (220 — age = MHR). The equation has an average error rate of plus or minus 12 bpm.

Heart rate reserve. HRR = MHR — RHR.

Next, determine the lower end and upper end of the training zone based on the individual’s current level of fitness (low, fair, good or excellent):

  • low: 45%–55%
  • fair: 55%–65%
  • good: 65%–75%
  • excellent: 75%–85%

These are examples—not absolute recommendations for training zones.

Blood pressure must also be taken into account. A person with high blood pressure should be evaluated by a physician before proceeding with any exercise program—no matter what the person’s resting heart rate is. Your assessments can help to identify such risks.

For more assessments and resources, please see “Focus on Fitness Assessments” in the online IDEA Library or in the July–August 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager. If you do not receive IDEA Fitness Manager and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7, for more information.

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