Health and Fitness – self-tests
Whether you exercise to be healthier, fitter, or to be more competitive there are a few numbers to know that can tell you how you are progressing. Even if you lead an active lifestyle and believe yourself to be quite healthy it’s still possible to miss or ignore signs of a growing deficiency. Knowing what’s what is the first step in making corrective moves. Below are a few self-tests that have been developed to gage your fitness, heart health and overall wellbeing. These tests are not meant to replace regular medical examinations. Use them to quantify your current health and fitness status. Flexibility, balance and strength in addition to aerobic fitness are all indicators of health.
Sit Rise Test
This test is actually quite simple and takes into consideration strength, balance as well as flexibility. Invented by Dr.Claudio Gil Araujo in Brazil and published in the European Journal of Cardiology, the test is designed to measure chance of death in the next 5 years. To begin the test, cross one foot in front of the other while standing and slowly lower yourself to a crossed leg sitting position. The next step is to stand back up. A perfect score is 10 points, 5 for sitting and 5 for standing without assistance from an arm or knee, etc. If you are shaky you lose ½ point for balance issues. You also lose a point for every hand, knee etc. you use. For instance if you get down unassisted with control, but needed to use one hand to get up you lose 1 point. 2 hands or a hand and knee are 2 points. You lose points for an assist up or down. Remember high score wins. In fact every point adds 21% decrease in mortality of all causes. Those scoring an 8 are twice as likely to die I the next 6 years as those that scored a 10. A score of three or less means you are 5 times more likely to die over the same time period compared to those that scored above 8.
Balance is one of the first signs of aging as declines can begin in our 20’s and 30’s. Falling is one of the greatest age related risks for seniors, but a poor balance can also be a sign of looming health issues for those significantly younger.
Balance is a complex interplay involving our sensory, nervous and motor systems. According to Dr. Yasuharu Tabara of the Center of Genomic Medicine in Kyoto, difficulty standing on one leg may indicate increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline. During a study of 1387 adults they found a correlation between the inability to stand on one leg for 20 seconds and reduced cognitive function.
To see how well you are aging you can try the simple following test.
While barefoot or in flat shoes stand on a flat firm surface. Cross your arms and then lift your dominant foot off the ground about 6 inches by bending the knee up. Clock stops when foot hits the ground or arms uncross. Start timing. For those in their 30’s and 40’s 60+ seconds is excellent. In your 50’s the mark is 45, at 60 target 27- 40. At 70 aim for 17-27 and at 80 8-12 seconds.
Waist to Height Test
This is really more a measurement rather that a test. BMI tests can be inaccurate because they don’t distinguish between muscle and fat weight. An easier test is to measure your waist just above your hip bones and then measure your height. A measurement where your waist is more than half your height requires changes to lifestyle, meaning diet and exercise.
Strength is a significant component to your overall health profile. Along with balance weakness particularly in the lower extremities can lead to falls and the inability to care for oneself. This test is a little more taxing than the previous ones. If you feel faint or overly out of breath do not complete.
Place a chair in an open space and stand in front of it. Stand with feet shoulder width, extend arms for counterbalance, reach back with glutes like you are going to sit, knees should bend to 90%. Without actually resting (graze seat only) rise back up until standing. That is one. Repeat until fatigued and don’t forget to count. Check yourself against the chart for score.
1 Minute Heartrate Recovery Test
Cardiovascular efficiency can be sign of fitness as well as cardio health. Heart attack is still a leading cause of death. A study performed at the Cleveland Clinic and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that heart rate recovery time was a good early indicator of potential heart problems. An abnormal decline in heart rate indicated greater chance of mortality over the next 6 years due to heart disease.
To take your heart rate place two fingers on the bottom side of your wrist or on the side of your windpipe. Count for 15 seconds and multiple by 4. If you have a fitness tracker, Apple watch or the like you should use that. You can use a treadmill, bike, elliptical or even just step-ups to get your HR up. This is a submaximal stress test, but is not for those with known heart issues. If you start to feel uncomfortable before reaching 85% stop and note HR here.
Start easy for 3-5 minutes, increase to moderate for 2 more minutes and then to about 85% of your max heart rate (see chart) for an additional 2 minutes. At this point stop moving and note your heart rate. Start timing and at exactly 1 minute recheck your HR. Write down your rate now and compare to the previous rate. How much did your heart rate drop. Less than 12-18 is considered abnormal and maybe considering a trip to the doctor for further testing. 20+is normal -good and 30+ is considered excellent.
These tests are meant to be informative and not a replacement for regular exams. Enjoy.
NEJM.org Heart Rate Recovery Immediately After Exercise as a Predictor of Mortality
Discovermagazine.com2013/now/05-sit-down Simple Sitting Test Will Predict How Long You’ll Live
USAToday.com How Long Will You Live? Try the Siting Rising Test
USAToday.com Adults over 50 lose their footing as balance declines
Today.com Take these 4 tests to see how well you’re aging
Forbes.com Try This Simple Test of Brain Health – You can do it standing on One Leg
Circ.ahajournals.org Heart Rate Recovery Immediately After Treadmill Exercise