Summer fitness test


Assessing fitness is something many of us don’t even consider doing on a regular basis, though I have heard some folks argue they do check it regularly – say once every ten years! Yet it is something even gym and generally active enthusiasts should consider adopting; no matter our level of fitness, we all can benefit from checking out our overall condition.

If you are in a group closer to the ‘regular’ ten-year assessment, you might be in for a bit of a shock. So, this summer, whether you are due a review or not, why not run through the tests below? Try starting with one simple test: balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer. What might this tell you? Well, believe it or not, a study found an association between all cause mortality rates and the amount of time people at the age of 53 were able to balance on one leg…

Warning signs for the inactive

No matter your weight, if regular exercise doesn’t feature in your life a fitness check can produce some unpleasant surprises. However, the good news is this can also be a wake-up call to action. Being overweight – or underweight – can be exhausting, as poor food choices reduce energy and activity levels. As our fitness wanes, we may notice some tell-tale signs. For the unfit, this checklist can provide early warning signals:

  • Climbing stairs seems harder
  • Just tying your shoelaces can leave you out of breath
  • Increasing aches and pains in joints
  • Carrying out simple tasks can be exhausting – carrying shopping, or putting it away in cupboards as you reach up and down, or bend over

If anything on this list strikes a chord, then you may already be reinforcing unhealthy lifestyle habits and need to create some movement in your life. 

A quality of life checklist for the more active

Determine a measuring post to gauge how fit you are, while also setting a standard you aspire to reach. The list of assessments below is something we all should be able to achieve, given time and the starting point of any fitness journey.

  1. Walk for two hours.

A two-hour walk shouldn’t feel like exercise. Walking should be pleasurable and leisurely, and you should be capable of completing this without becoming exhausted by the time you reach your destination.

  1. The mile run.

A good barometer for overall endurance, it also reflects how you might perform in an emergency, in my case when I forgot my phone just before I had a session with a client!

In a study, men over 50 who could run the mile in 8 minutes or less had “optimal cardiovascular fitness” and a greatly reduced risk of heart disease. For women, the time was 9 minutes. The younger you are, the less time it should take, but the best mark of fitness is that your time improves!

  1. Water test.

If running is a problem, water may provide a good alternative test. Take to the deep end of a swimming pool or body of water (never alone) and tread water. Aim for 15 minutes. No floating – that’s cheating! Stay in constant motion, always treading, but don’t swim and keep your head above water at all times. 15 minutes of active, unceasing treading is fairly tiring, but it should be doable for most people. If not, make it your aim to build up to it.

Some further tests to try at home:
  1. Touch your toes with your fingers, keeping your legs straight.
  2. Pick up an object from the ground moving your hips and legs but keeping your spine straight.
  3. Sit down in a squat, hold the position and then get back up without aid – or just try the Chair Test.
  4. Hold the plank for 2 minutes.
Special benefits for 50+

When researchers at Harvard University calculated average life expectancy from 123,000 volunteers to understand how much longer people lived if they followed a healthy diet, controlled their weight, took regular exercise, drank in moderation and did not smoke they found a dramatic effect from the healthy habits. The study published in the journal Circulation found that compared with people who adopted none of the healthy habits, men who followed all five saw their life expectancy at 50 rise from 26 to 38 years and women from 29 to 43 years. But to my mind the more important benefit will be the promise of a higher quality of life for most of those respective 38 and 43 years, not just the additional extra 12 years for men and 14 for women.

Regular exercise is a key factor and assessing fitness helps us discover how we are faring. The older you are the more urgent it becomes, both to assess and determine appropriate action.

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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