What is Fitness Testing?

Fitness testing provides a series of measurements which help determine the health status and physical fitness of an individual. Tests measure specific things like strength, stamina, speed, power and agility.

Fitness testing is used by sports coaches, doctors and trainers to determine an individual’s level of fitness. The results can then be used for many things, including as the basis for an exercise programme, for talent identification, to highlight current health conditions or risks, or to learn about past injuries.

Fitness testing can be provided for adults and children. It is used by sports and health organisations, including sports clubs and the armed forces.

Why should people use fitness testing?

The benefits of fitness testing are well established:
  • Use of fitness testing as a tool to promote health promotion is well recognised. An example is Liverpool’s SportLinx Programme which was delivered in partnership with Liverpool Moores University, the Schools Sports Partnership and Liverpool Primary Care Trust
  • The value of fitness testing as a tool to promote health promotion has been recognised in a number of sectors, including the health sector, the education sector and government. The last report of Chief Medical Officer for England in 2010 advocated comprehensive fitness testing in schools and recognised that the monitoring of youth fitness is recognised as an important component of public health surveillance
  • The latest government strategy “Be Active, Be Healthy” has emphasized the part that objective fitness testing could play in observing trends: by analysing data by region, school and age group, structured interventions could be appropriately targeted and educational curricula could be modified
  • Evidence from school children participating in fitness testing in the US shows that awards achieved based on fitness tests are positively associated with intrinsic motivation and future intention to participate
  • Research suggest that enhancing physical self-concept predicates increased physical activity and participation in children: self-perception of athletic ability is a key determinant of participation, independent of gender, ethnicity, and weight status
  • There is a need for “non sporty” kids to get recognition not based on conventional fitness standard criteria, to encourage them to take part in physical activity. Positive feedback from fitness testing can therefore be used as motivation for children, even if they do not attain conventional fitness standards or conventional sporting “success”

Current issues with fitness testing

In UK schools, fitness testing is implemented sporadically rather than as part of a standardised and contextualised programme.

Very few companies provide comprehensive fitness for schools. That which has been provided has been criticised by academics, PE teachers and the Association for Physical Education for a number of reasons, including:

  • Little evidence of it promoting increases in physical activity
  • Concerns about alienating and demotivating overweight kids
  • Lack of understanding of what is being tested