Although much fitness testing can be done without special equipment, sometimes more information about an individual’s fitness level can be achieved through the use of fitness testing equipment. There are a variety of types of fitness testing equipment that measure such aspects of fitness as cardiovascular fitness, strength, body composition, and performance. Body composition tests, such as skin fold calipers and bioelectrical impedance analyzers, measure body size and calculate body fat percentage. There also are ergometers that measure cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and strength in rowers and other athletes. Goniometers and accelerometers are sometimes used as well and measure flexibility and speed, respectively.
Maximal oxygen uptake, or VO2 max, is a measure of how efficiently the body uses oxygen during intense exercise. VO2 max can be measured by running on a treadmill or cycling a stationary bike at a high intensity. The athlete breathes through a type of fitness testing equipment called a metabolic analyzer, which measures the volume and percentage of oxygen and carbon dioxide in exhaled air. The results can be used to determine an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds and give information about an athlete’s cardiovascular capacity and overall fitness level.
An ergometer is a type of fitness testing equipment that uses the cardiovascular system and muscle strength to measure the amount of work performed by a muscle. These devices typically are attached to exercise equipment; bicycle ergometers commonly are used in gyms, while rowing machine ergometers may be used by professional rowers outdoors. Ergometers may be connected to a metabolic analyzer to measure VO2 max as well. Some physical therapists use hand-cranked ergometers in office to measure a client's fitness level.
Speed can be measured using an accelerometer, an apparatus that hooks to an athlete’s shoelaces. An accelerometer is a complex device that can measure the vertical and horizontal acceleration of the foot. Using these measurements, the accelerometer uses algorithms to calculate the speed of the athlete with 97 to 99% accuracy.
Flexibility can be measured by either a simple sit-and-reach test or more precisely using a goniometer. A goniometer measures angles between body parts to determine flexibility. For example, a physician may have a person stretch down to touch his toes with his finger tips and measure the angle between his trunk and his legs.
There are many types of fitness testing equipment that measure body composition and size. Skin fold calipers are used to measure subcutaneous fat by pinching the skin at various points on the body and measuring the amount of tissue in a pinch. Measurements from several points on the body can be used to calculate the percentage of fat on the body.
A more precise measurement of body composition can be obtained through a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). This device sends a harmless electric current through the tissues and calculates the amount of water. From this number, lean body mass can be calculated.