Middle school gym teachers and Marine Corps drill instructors have used a variety of tests to measure fitness. Running, push-ups, pull-ups, obstacle courses, and so on, are common fitness tests. But the fact is that many regular people can’t do these things well.
To find out just how useful these things are as a measure of fitness, researchers looked at 17 normal weight people who were not strong or fast– you know, regular people. Three days a week for three months, these people engaged in low-intensity exercises that had little or nothing to do with the aforementioned fitness tests. They spent most of their time hula-hooping, playing hopscotch, or using a stationary bike while watching Judge Judy. Over those three months, nobody bothered to track nutrition or sleep habits of the subjects. The researchers didn’t discuss the experiment details with experts, they just turned a few people loose in a gym for a few minutes every week, with instructions to not break a sweat or strain themselves. The researchers didn’t even bother to set up a control group for the experiment because they were trying to show that getting fit is hard. Like, really, really hard. Especially for regular people.
So, anyway, by the end of the three months, these 17 regular people increased their hula-hoop and hopscotch abilities by 36%. But the researchers were stunned when they found out that only 4 of the 17 people succeeded in doing better on any fitness tests. ”We honestly thought we could get people fit by having them hula-hoop and play hopscotch,” said Paul Bunkerhousen. But Bunkerhousen said that the study and other research showed that fitness takes more than just the ability to roll a hoop around one’s hips, or hop in chalk squares on the floor. Men and women who are fit tend to have more muscle mass, lower body fat, better coordination and speed, and more a robust cardiovascular system.
So no matter how fit they are, regular people will never be as fit as fit people. Bunkerhousen noted that some fit people struggle with fitness tests, too. ”I mean, they do work really hard at those tests. You ever see the Olympics? Those guy look so tired when they’re done. It’s not for everybody.” This is related to an interesting phenomenon: if a person works really hard at something, they can get better at it. But, there are some people who, for whatever reason, just aren’t naturally good at running, or push-ups. Those people should probably just give up on fitness and enjoy reality TV and potato chips, or something. After all, working hard to get better at something isn’t for everybody.
For those of you who haven’t read the New York Times article, Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups, you should do so before you leave a comment.