Test your fitness at any age with these simple exercises

Ella Castle

A headline that reads “Are you fit for your age? Try our New Year’s tune-up to find out.” There are five illustrated characters around the headline: a person balancing on a board, a person in a squatting position, a person in a plank position, a person running, and a person […]

A headline that reads “Are you fit for your age? Try our New Year’s tune-up to find out.” There are five illustrated characters around the headline: a person balancing on a board, a person in a squatting position, a person in a plank position, a person running, and a person with oversized wavy arms flexing.

Want to know if you’re as fit as most people your age?

We asked top exercise experts for easy, D.I.Y. ways to test five of the most essential elements of fitness.

These elements are noteworthy because each has been linked to longevity, meaning our balance, mobility, grip strength, stamina and overall fitness could influence just how long and well we live.

Try these five simple tests now and see how you measure up against a benchmark of what’s healthy for your age group. Don’t fret if your results fall a bit short. We’ll also give you easy exercises to help you fine-tune every aspect of your fitness and make 2024 your fittest year yet.

1. Balance

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How wobbly are you?

For most otherwise healthy people, balance declines precipitously “after about age 50,” said Jay Hertel, chair of the kinesiology department at the University of Virginia, who’s long studied balance. It can be iffy in younger people, too, contributing to falls and other injuries.

Test it

The stork: With your eyes open, feet bare and a wall or chair nearby to grasp if needed, count how many seconds you can stand on one leg before needing to put down your foot or grab a support. The number below, in seconds, represents a reasonable goal for your age.

Test your Balance

How long can you stand on one foot?

Drag the slider to mark your answer
and get your fitness result

Tune up your balance

Advanced stork: While shoeless, stand on one leg but close your eyes or turn your head slowly from side to side with eyes open, Hertel said. Hold as long as possible, then switch legs.

Heel-toe walk: Find a long board in the floor or lay down a strip of colored tape. While shoeless, walk its length with the toe of one foot butting the heel of the other.

2. Mobility

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How well can you stand and move?

Test it

The sinking yogi: This move is challenging, even if you’re generally healthy, but especially if you have joint issues. It can be a useful harbinger, though, of flexibility and overall maneuverability. Stand up, cross your legs and lower yourself to the floor, without using your hands, if possible, until you’re sitting yogi-style; then, still without using your hands, get up again. You only need to do this move once. Start with 10 points and deduct one for every time you use your hands, knees or any other support. The result below represents a high but hopefully achievable goal for your age.

Test your Mobility

How did you do?

Drag the slider to mark your answer
and get your fitness result

Tune up your mobility

Squats: This exercise is the surest way to build the muscles and movements needed to stand. To start, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, arms in front of you and, keeping your spine aligned, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground. (Go lower if it feels comfortable.) Rise slowly and repeat.

World’s greatest stretch: The name is arguable, but this move should improve range of motion in joints needed for mobility. Get into a plank position on the ground, arms straight. Step your right foot forward until it rests near your right hand. Swing your right arm up and out and twist your core to that side, gazing at your outstretched hand. Switch to the other side and repeat until you tire.

3. Stamina

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How’s your endurance?

Test it

Run or walk: How fast can you run or walk a mile? It’s fine to estimate now and check your pace on a treadmill or track later. The range of times below represents, essentially, a passing grade for healthy people, a decent goal that, for most of us, could still be bettered.

Test your Stamina

How fast can you finish a mile?

Drag the slider to mark your answer
and get your fitness result

Tune up your stamina

30-20-10 intervals: Brief spurts of intense exercise are the most effective way to improve endurance, said Jens Bangsbo, an exercise scientist at the University of Copenhagen, who studies intervals.

They can also be fun, especially the 30-20-10 version of intervals. To start: Pick your exercise: walk, cycle, swim or run. Warm-up. Then do the exercise easily for 30 seconds. Pick up the pace for 20 seconds. Really push yourself for 10 seconds.

The 30 seconds should feel like about a 3 on a 10-point scale of effort; the 20 seconds at about a 5; and the 10 seconds at a 7, 8 or higher. Repeat this one-minute sequence three to five times, and try to fit in at least one session of intervals each week, upping your reps or speed as you get better. “The amount of training should be progressively increased,” Bangsbo said

4. Grip Strength

How strong and healthy are your muscles?

Test it

Dead hang: Using a pull-up bar at your gym, local playground or living-room doorway, hold on, palms facing away from you, feet off the ground, as long as you can. Use a watch or partner to time you. It’s fine to estimate now and check yourself later. Your results are likely to depend “as much on body size” as age, said Robert Turp, founder of Fitness Drum, a coaching and fitness consultancy in the United Kingdom. As a result, the benchmarks are the same for any gender.

The number below represents a reasonable goal for healthy people your age.

Test your Grip Strength

How long can you hang?

Drag the slider to mark your answer
and get your fitness result

Tune up your strength

More dead hangs: They build grip strength, as well as measure it. If you can’t hold yourself off the ground yet, Turp said, clutch the bar with your feet on the ground and hold tight, until you grow strong enough to lift your feet. Increase your hang time gradually.

Farmer’s carry: From the ground, heft in each hand a dumbbell or kettlebell that’s about as heavy as you can hold. (Large, filled water bottles or gallon containers work, too.) Hold the weight steady, slightly away from your body, and walk around a room or hallway. Slowly increase the weight or walking time.

5. Overall Fitness

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How is your overall fitness?

To measure, do burpees. Few people love them, but the burpee, a calisthenic exercise that includes a squat, thrust and push-up movement, requires and rewards endurance, strength, balance and mobility, offering a good estimate of your general fitness. (To do a burpee, stand up, squat rapidly, put your hands on the floor, thrust your legs straight back, lower into a push-up, pull your legs back under your chest and stand up. A jump at the end is optional. Skip the push-up, too, if it’s too painful or hard. Scroll down to see an illustrated burpee.)

Test it

Burpees: Do as many burpees as possible in 30 seconds. The numbers below represent a challenging but reasonable goal for your age.

Test your Overall Fitness

How many burpees can you do?

Drag the slider to mark your answer
and get your fitness result

Tune up your overall fitness

More burpees: The best way to grow fitter and better at burpees is to regularly do burpees, Turp said. For a modified version, lean against a chair, instead of going fully to the floor. But try to work up gradually to a full burpee, if you can.

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