Determine Your Fitness Level Without Stepping on a Scale

Some put too much stock in the number they read after stepping onto the bathroom scale. Keep in mind that weight number can fluctuate a few pounds or more in a given day depending on various factors. Conversely, for someone on a severe diet or an older individual, the scale can’t distinguish between the amount of muscle and fat that is lost. For example, it reports you lost 5 pounds. Was that from water, muscle, fat or a combination? There is no way to tell via a traditional scale.

Weight loss can be very motivational but it shouldn’t be the lone criteria used when trying to document changes in body composition. The picture becomes clearer when tools like skinfold calipers or a gulick tape measure are used. The end result is a better idea of what has actually been lost.

5 Ways to Determine Your Fitness Level

When mentioning fitness level, we are referring to the condition of the heart, lungs and cardiovascular system. As you exercise, these areas become stronger and more efficient at doing their job. The reason for this is the body eventually adapts to the training stimulus.

Heart Rate

Heart rate is a great way to monitor a workout and to see if and how you are improving. What was once difficult at a specific training intensity, will eventually not challenge you as much because the cardiovascular system improves. This is seen with heart rate and other types of measurements. Heart rate will not elevate as much, and in turn, it will recover more quickly as fitness improves.

Heart Rate Recovery

This is a great recovery option to start using more often. Following any cardio exercise (or exercise in general), record how quickly your heart rate returns to a resting level. A key metric is to look at the delta or the difference between max heart rate and recovery during exercise. For example, in your workout, heart rate hit a peak of 145 bpm. After a minute of recovery, heart rate dropped to 100 bpm or a delta of 45 beats. This is a good thing. As the body becomes more efficient with exercise, heart rate should drop even lower at a faster rate. Monitor this over time with the start/finish of a single session or training program.

VO2 Max

VO2 max is basically the amount of oxygen (L/min) the body uptakes during exercise per kilogram of bodyweight. The higher the number, the better. You can also track this number using Apple Health. The number drops with age and when deconditioned. The numbers below are taken from

“The average non-trained male achieves a VO2 max of roughly 30 to 40 ml/kg/min. The average non-trained female scores roughly 27 to 30 ml/kg/min. Elite male athletes V02 Max can climb up as high as 90 ml/kg/min, while female athletes to up to 80 mL/kg/min.”

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Another option for you is to monitor fitness and stress levels with heart rate variability (hrv). HRV is basically the difference between individual heart beats. There is a great deal of interesting and helpful data that surrounds this number. HRV has also been described as the variation in heart rate that occurs when someone breathes in and out at rest. Higher variability is actually better, and indicates a well-recovered, calm state, whereas consistently low HRV values indicates the presence of chronic stress. HRV should be measured at the same time of day to be accurate and meaningful, and a measurement should be compared to a person’s baseline. For more information, download the Welltory app.


Rate of perceived exertion or RPE, measures the intensity of an exercise, using a score of how difficult a particular exercise feels while doing it. RPE isn’t a difficulty rating of an exercise, it’s more of a subjective rating that’s based on how you feel physically and mentally. An RPE range of 1-10 is typically used with one being the easiest and 10 more of a maximum effort. The ere is also something called the Borg scale which uses a 6-20 range. Why this number range? Because it is designed to give you a fairly good estimate of your actual heart rate during exercise To do this, multiply your RPE by 10 to get an estimated heart rate. For example, if you rated the exercise as a 9, then this would roughly equate to a heart rate of 90 beats per minute.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully one or more of these measurements can be added to monitor your workouts better and ultimately, help improve performance and increase motivation.

Stay Strong Together

Try the award-winning Jefit app for your next workout. Take advantage of Jefit exercise database for planning & tracking your strength training workouts. Named best app for 2022 and 2023 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual, the Greatist and many others. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app also has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and even has the ability to share workouts with friends. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *