Glossary of terms in fitness testing

Glossary of Terms in Fitness Testing

 Fitness testing is important because it can help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and better plan a path forward for your upcoming fitness goals. However, there are more than 300 fitness tests out there. Finding the right one for you, as well as understanding the verbiage surrounding them, can be tricky.

Here are some of the fitness testing terms you should know before you pick a test, so you can determine its usefulness in your own fitness regimen and know precisely what it will do for you. 

Aerobic fitness and endurance

This is the measure of your blood’s ability to transport oxygen throughout your body and then how well your muscles use that oxygen.  An aerobic endurance test would measure your ability to continue prolonged exercise without becoming tired or fatigued. An aerobic endurance test is similar to a maximal oxygen uptake test (see below), but is often more affordable and accessible for the average athlete.

Anaerobic threshold

Anaerobic training is another name for HIIT training — it’s high intensity and in short intervals. When you measure your anaerobic threshold, you’re determining at what point lactic acid begins accumulating in your muscles. This threshold determines the upper limit of your sustainable exercise. Once you cross the threshold, then you are unsustainably exercising and your body will force you to slow down.

Basal metabolic rate

Your BMR is tested in a sports or medicine laboratory under very controlled circumstances and in a very controlled environment. Your BMR is your body’s lowest rate of energy usage possible, while still keeping you alive. Often your BMR would be measured after a full night of sleep in a quiet, comfortable, stress-free environment. The results from this test will help you further determine the amount of calories your body truly needs.


An electrocardiogram, or ECG, records your heart’s electrical activity. This type of test is taken via wires placed on your chest, after which you may be asked to perform some activity, and is conducted by a sports cardiology specialist. An ECG is typically used to determine what kind of stress your heart may experience when subjected to rigorous exercise. While it can sometimes uncover fatal diseases, there is some controversy surrounding ECG's, as they can also cause false alarms.

Maximal oxygen uptake

Also known as VO2Max, your maximal oxygen uptake is your body’s maximum capacity for oxygen consumption while doing the maximum amount of exercise possible. Many runners — and athletes involved in high-endurance activities — work to increase their VO2Max for better endurance, speed and overall performance. The higher your VO2Max, the more aerobically fit you are.

Respiratory exchange ratio

This is the ratio of the amount of carbon dioxide your body produces to the amount of oxygen your body consumes. Measuring this ratio can help you determine when you reach your maximal oxygen uptake, as well as help you measure anaerobic threshold and tell you whether your body is using carbohydrates or fats for energy.

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