Physical fitness plays a major role in living a happy, healthy lifestyle. Keeping fit prevents chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Being fit also enables you to perform everyday activities with more ease, and it helps you perform better in your favorite sports.
So, just how fit are you? Find out where you stand with some simple physical fitness tests and activities you can do at home. Make note of your results, then test yourself again every several months to see how your fitness is improving.
Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate is a measure of how hard your heart is working when you're physically inactive. A lower resting heart rate is typically an indicator of good cardiovascular fitness. A resting heart rate of 60 to 100 is normal for adults. You can use a heart rate monitor to assess this or simply take your pulse. Taking your pulse first thing in the morning is ideal.
HOW TO DO IT: Have a stopwatch or a clock with a second hand nearby. Place your index and middle fingers on your carotid artery in your neck or on your radial artery on the inside of your wrist. Count the number of beats in 20 seconds, then multiply that number by three to find your resting heart rate.
The sit-up test measures the strength and endurance of your abdominal muscles. The more repetitions you can do in one minute, the more strength and endurance you have in your abdominals.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back on the floor or on an exercise mat. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands lightly on the tops of your thighs. Set a stopwatch for 60 seconds.
Contract your abdominal muscles and do as many sit-ups as you can, curling up enough so that your hands slide up to the tops of your knees. Return to your starting position after each repetition. At the end of 60 seconds, record your total.
Good results for men between the ages of 26 and 45 are 35 to 45 repetitions; for women of the same ages, good results range from 27 to 39.
The sit-and-reach test measures your flexibility, specifically your hamstring flexibility. You will need a ruler and a step for this test.
HOW TO DO IT: Warm up for this test by going for a quick jog and doing some light stretching. When you return, take off your shoes and sit down on the floor facing the bottom step of a stairway with your legs extended out in front of you, feet flexed and legs slightly apart. Keep your legs straight throughout the exercise.
Place your ruler on the top of the step, extending out over your feet. As you inhale and lengthen your spine toward the ceiling, reach your arms out in front of you, with one hand on top of the other. Exhale completely as you reach your fingers forward as far as you can. When you have reached as far as you can, touch your fingertips to the ruler and make note of the distance between your toes and your fingers.
Good flexibility for men ranges from 2.5 to 6 inches past the toes, and for women, 11 to 20 inches past the toes.
The squat test measures the muscular strength and endurance of your lower body.
HOW TO DO IT: Find a chair, such as a dining room chair, that sets your knees at right angles when you sit down. Stand a little bit in front of the chair with your back to it. Put your hands on your hips and squat down as if you are sitting on the chair. Touch your bottom to the chair lightly, then stand back up. Do this as many times as you can, maintaining proper form and without resting. When you can no longer do anymore with good form, record how many you did.
For women, a good score is between 23 and 27. For men, a good score is between 27 and 34.
The step test measures your cardiovascular endurance. You'll need a stopwatch and a step about 12 inches high for this activity. Before starting the test, make sure you know how to find your pulse on your neck with your index finger.
HOW TO DO IT: Set your stopwatch for three minutes. Stand in front of the step, and begin to step up and down. Step on with the right foot, then step the left foot up. Step the right foot off and step the left foot off. Continue this rhythm for three minutes. At the end of three minutes, find your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.
A good score for women is 88 to 102 beats-per-minute, or BPM. For men, a good score is 81 to 96 BPM.