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SFSU offers fitness testing for better living

March 15, 2004

Photo of grad student Dominic Daprile on a treadmill demonstrating the VO2 max testExercising like crazy but the results aren’t yet visible? The University’s Exercise Physiology Lab located in the gym offers a variety of low cost fitness testing services that can help anyone meet dieting, exercise or well-being goals.

Popular with athletes and fitness fanatics, these tests and various services are available to anyone. For $15 to $45, students, faculty and general staff can find out their body composition (body fat percentage), assess their cardiovascular fitness and tailor workout routines and eating habits for overall results. The tests are also open to the general public for slightly higher fees.

Before starting an exercise or diet regimen, a good first step is establishing a baseline of body fat percentage, says Kerry Bradley, a kinesiology graduate student who runs the lab's fitness testing services. These percentages are not only a tool to figure out a realistic weight loss goal but also to gauge the risk for health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol. The physiology lab, run through the Kinesiology Department, offers three unique methods for determining body fat percentage: a skin fold test, a "bod pod" test and hydrostatic weighing.

A skin fold test is the least complicated and least expensive method of determining body fat percentage. For this test, a caliper measures skin folds from five places on the body and computes the body fat percentage from these measurements. A "bod pod" test is a simple, slightly more expensive test using a compact air chamber that takes detailed readings of body mass by analyzing air displacement and density. Hydrostatic weighing works much like the "bod pod" test except that water is used instead of air, and requires the person to be submerged underwater.

Bradley says the "bod pod" test and the hydrostatic weighing are more accurate than the skin fold test and commercial body fat scales.

"We can measure body fat with a 2 percent to 4 percent error where commercial scales can go all the way up to 10 percent or 12 percent error," she said. "We give people a really accurate picture of their percentage of fat and muscle mass and help them create a program that will work to meet their goals."

In addition to body fat percentage tests, the lab offers VO2 max testing, which gauges the heart's fitness. By running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike at top speed while hooked up to a breathing tube, the test measures how efficiently heart, lungs and muscles work together and consume oxygen.

Another service offered by the lab is a "3-Day Diet Recall," a nutritional assessment where food intake is recorded for three days. This information is analyzed to understand how food affects fitness and counselors offer suggestions on dietary changes to improve fitness goals.

These fitness tests are available singly or in packages. For appointments, call the lab at (415) 338-1399. The lab is located in the gym, room 111.

Student Writer Javier Jimenez with Christina Holmes


San Francisco State University

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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications