The women in the University of Nevada aging study have strong opinions about the before-and-after exercise testing. “I love having some actual numbers to look at,” says Austine Wood Comarow. “It gives me a way to gauge my progress.” If you find motivation from watching yourself improve, take these three tests for a benchmark.

Aerobics: Step Test

Find a step that’s about 12 inches high. (If you don’t have a low bench or step around the house or neighborhood that will work, your local sporting goods store should sell steps for aerobics that you can use.)  Grab a watch that has a second hand, and practice stepping up on the bench in this pattern: right foot up, left foot up, right foot down, left foot down. That counts as 1 step; briefly practice this until you can smoothly do 8 in 20 seconds (that’s a 24-steps-per-minute pace).

Once you have the pattern and pace down, do some stretches (calf, thigh, and hamstring), and wait 10 minutes or so until you’re fully rested. Now you’re ready. The idea is to do 3 minutes of stepping on the bench, then sit down in a chair and immediately count your pulse for a full minute. The total at the end of a minute is your score. See where you rank in the chart below.

  Your Age   
  Pulse RateGood<94<98<103<105
 Below Average>111>112>118>120

Strength: Knee Push-Ups

Lie facedown, your feet resting on your toes, with your palms flat on the floor at your chest. Keeping your knees on the floor, contract your abdominals and slowly push up until your arms are straight. Lower down to the starting position. Do as many push-ups as you can. (If you start bending at the waist, stop.) Your total is your score.

  Your Age   
Number of 
 Below Average<15<13<11<7

Flexibility: Sit and Reach

Ask a family member or friend to help. Warm up for five minutes (perhaps by walking briskly). Remove your shoes and sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Point your toes at the ceiling and ask your helper to place the 12-inch bench against your feet.

Hold your arms straight out in front of you, one hand over the other, palms down, and fingers pointing at your toes. Now slowly bend from the waist and extend your hands over the bench. Have the helper mark on the bench the farthest point your fingertips reached, then measure how far past your feet the mark is. (If you can’t reach the bench, have your assistant measure how many inches you came to the step.)

All Ages   
Excellent>6 ¾”Good4 to 6 ¾”
Average-3 to 3 ¾”Below Average<-3”

(Editorial Note: Don’t take the numbers seriously;  just do the best you can. Any exercise you can do will be beneficial to your overall health.)

Are you trying to slim down by eating fat-free foods? Hold on to your grocery list—those items may not be as “guilt-free” as you think.!

Source: Health Magazine, Nov/Dec 2000