Your Physical Education: Episode 4: Assessment in 6 Parts

Self-assessment is the most important tool you have for improving your health and fitness. If you don’t know where you are, how will you know where you are going? Or how to get there? In the six parts below (links in headings) we talk about the things you need to start thinking about when improving your fitness lifestyle.

This is entry level stuff. When we talk about improving athletic performance, things get much more specific, but that isn’t as important for the entry level beginner. The average person looking to improve their health and fitness can make a lot of progress with more simple interventions. The biggest enemy to consistency is complexity. Start low and aim high.

You can view all of our episodes here on our Anchor dashboard.

Part 1: Endurance, sleep, and stress

All human activities are endurance activities. Its what we evolved to do. And what is that exactly? Endurance can be applied to a lot of things, but the most important thing is that we be able to maintain our posture through a range of activities and intensities. When we can no longer maintain our posture, we fatigue and fatigue can cause all sorts of problems. Though endurance relies on both strength and cardiovascular conditioning, if you are having a hard time with postural or strength endurance, getting stronger will always help.

Before we begin any kind of training program, we need to know where we are starting from. In this episode, we talk about both sleep and stress and how important they are not only to our health, but our performance in the gym. 

12 minute back video

Radiolab Sleep episode

Deep Sleep Gives Your Brain a Deep Clean: Scientific American

Part 2: Diet

The most important thing to know about diet is that it is extremely important to understand exactly what you are eating before you change anything. Paying attention helps us to be more careful about when and how much we eat. Oftentimes big changes are not necessary. Increasing our protein and fiber intake while decreasing our fat and processed food intake is often enough to make some positive changes. Before you commit to a big diet change, do yourself a favor and track your diet for a week. Simply by paying attention, you may already be able to figure out what you need to do in order to move in the right direction.

I cover diet in my book, Fitness without Fear, in Appendix B.

Part 3: Physical activity and exercise

Physical activity is an important concept.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for adults of all ages. Higher levels of physical activity can provide additional benefits for both adults and children alike, but it is important to note that even small amounts of physical activity are better than none. Recent research has demonstrated that it is not just sustained physical activity that benefits our health but reducing the duration of sedentary periods throughout the day regardless of activity level. This means regularly getting up from the television or office chair, actively moving, and sitting and standing with active, engaged posture.[i]

Physical activity is simply any movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure. Walking, cycling, playing sports, gardening, and household chores are all examples of physical activity. Exercise is planned physical activity used to develop physical fitness. Exercise differs from general physical activity in that it is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as an objective the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness.[ii]

The CDC defines physical fitness as “The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies. Physical fitness includes a number of components consisting of cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic power), skeletal muscle endurance, skeletal muscle strength, skeletal muscle power, flexibility, balance, speed of movement, reaction time, and body composition”. [iii]

Ultimately, it is physical fitness that allows us to be more physically active throughout our day without fatigue or risk of injury. We develop physical fitness through exercise. A deconditioned or weakened person is simply not able to get up and move around as often as a more fit person. The prescription for curing these problems is regular exercise that builds strengthand aerobic fitness.[iv]Regular physical activity improves posture, movement, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and reduces risk of disease.

[i] Petros MARAGKOUDAKIS, “Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour,” Text, EU Science Hub – European Commission, June 20, 2017,

[ii] C J Caspersen, K E Powell, and G M Christenson, “Physical Activity, Exercise, and Physical Fitness: Definitions and Distinctions for Health-Related Research.,” Public Health Reports100, no. 2 (1985): 126–31,

[iii] Read “Does the Built Environment Influence Physical Activity?: Examining the Evidence — Special Report 282” at NAP.Edu, accessed April 24, 2021,

[iv] Louise J Geneen et al., “Physical Activity and Exercise for Chronic Pain in Adults: An Overview of Cochrane Reviews,” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 4, no. 4 (April 24, 2017): CD011279–CD011279,

Part 4: Cardiovascular fitness and strength

All human activities are endurance activities. Endurance is a combination of cardiovascular fitness and strength, so how do we know if we have enough of either?

Part 5: Pain

Pain can cause us to be afraid to start an exercise program or stop moving altogether. However, strength training and regular physical activity can be a powerful tool for mitigating and even eliminating pain from your life.

Disc degeneration and low back pain review:

Rahyussalim, Zufar, and Kurniawati, “Significance of the Association between Disc Degeneration Changes on Imaging and Low Back Pain: A Review Article.”

Arthritis and exercise:

Goh et al., “Efficacy and Potential Determinants of Exercise Therapy in Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”

Part 6: Body composition and ongoing assessments

To conclude this Episode series 1-6, we talk about measuring body composition. Although body composition is often the first thing people think about when they decide to exercise, it is only one of many things that can be improved by adopting a fitness lifestyle. Keeping track of all of those things is important both for improving your health and wellness, but for learning a lot about yourself along the way.

Walsh et al., “The Association between Body Fat and Musculoskeletal Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”

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