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Take these at-home tests to measure your cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Then use these easy steps to improve your scores  On yo...




Take these at-home tests to measure your cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Then use these easy steps to improve your scores 

On your morning jog, you can’t help noticing every time another runner blows past you. During yoga, you know it’s not zen to compare yourself, but you wonder how your neighbor to the right gets into those shapes.

Sound familiar? We all want to know how we measure up—and that’s actually a good thing. “Exercisers do better when they test—and retest— themselves,” says Kevin Asuncion, a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer. “Feedback motivates you when it’s positive and helps redirect your efforts when it’s not.”

It’s not just about winning your age group in the local 5K fun run either. Having an honest benchmark of your own fitness level gives you a concrete number to beat—essential for setting S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. That ’s why it ’s a good idea to regularly assess your cardio power, strength, flexibility, and balance: four pillars of physical fitness. Put yourself to the test, then use the strategies on these pages to improve your score on any (or all!) fronts.


HOW TO FIND OUT: Walk a mile Not everyone is a runner, nor do you need to be in order to be fit. But if you can walk a mile, you can estimate your VO2 max, the measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen. This is important because studies suggest that, whatever your weight, higher levels of aerobic fitness may be protective against health conditions like diabetes and even early death from all causes.

TRY IT. Head to a track or use your car’s odometer to measure out a (flat) one-mile course. Walk the distance as fast as you can, timing yourself with a stopwatch. As soon as you finish, check your pulse. If you have a heart-rate-monitor watch, you’re set. If you don’t, DIY by feeling for it on your wrist. Count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get your beats per minute.

SCORE IT. Search online for the Rockport Walk Test calculator and plug in your gender, age, weight, time for the mile walk, and your heart rate at the end. Or calculate it yourself with this formula: 132.853 – (0.0769 × weight in pounds) – (0.3877 × age) + (6.315 × 1 if you’re male or 0 if you’re female) – (3.2649 × time in minutes) – (0.1565 × heart rate).

A score of around 40 is good for men in their 30s and 40s. Forty-eight or higher is excellent. For women in their 30s, 37 or above is good. Female and over 40? Aim for 33 or higher. A number of 40 or above is exceptional.

GET FASTER. To improve your score, add intervals—short bursts of higher-intensity effort—to your cardio sessions. Since they push your heart and lungs to work harder than they’re used to, they deliver faster results than if you were to continue at your regular pace. “We used to think intervals were only for the super fit because they’re so difficult, but they can benefit everybody,” says Michael Ross, medical director of the Rothman Or thopaedic Institute’s Performance Lab in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

And you can reap the rewards of intervals with the cardio of your choice (running, biking, etc.). After warming up at a conversational pace, pick it up to a level where it’s hard to get a full sentence out for one to two minutes. Slow down to recover for two to three minutes and then repeat, aiming for 20 to 30 minutes total.

As you get fitter, Ross recommends incorporating intervals in a variety of speeds and durations to challenge all of your muscle fibers. That means short and fast efforts of just 20 to 30 seconds all-out as well as longer intervals of eight to 10 minutes at a pace you can just maintain for that amount of time (followed by a recovery period).


HOW TO FIND OUT: See how many push-ups and squats you can do. While the truest measure of strength is the greatest amount of weight you can lift with any given muscle group, those tests can be grueling—and risky. Instead, try testing your muscle endurance on two key exercises, the push-up and the squat, suggests Chris Gagliardi, a trainer, coach, and medicalexercise specialist who teaches fitness professionals with the American Council on Exercise.


  1. Push-up test. Get into a plank position with your elbows bent and hands planted below your shoulders. Men should extend their legs, supporting themselves on their hands and toes, body in a straight line from the head to the heels. Women should do a modified push-up on hands and knees. Keeping abs tight, straighten your elbows to press up. Repeat and count how many you can do until you can’t go any longer.
  2. Squat test. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Keeping weight on your heels, bend your knees and sit back. Aim to lower until your thighs are parallel with the ground, keeping knees behind toes. Push into heels to stand. Count how many reps you can do until you need to rest.

SCORE IT. For push-ups, 13 to 19 is a solid count for women in their 30s. For 30-something men, 17 to 21 is a good score. For the squat test, about 30 is a good number to hit for women ages 36 to 45, while men that age should aim for a count in the upper 30s. If you’re up to a decade older than that, subtract five from your goal number. Younger? Add five.

GET STRONGER. The recipe for getting stronger is to create what’s called “overload” by regularly challenging your muscles to do slightly more than they’re used to. You can do this by using weights, resistance bands, or body-weight exercises (like push-ups and squats) two or three times a week. (Do it only once a week and you may find you feel sore after every session.) Shoot for eight to 12 reps of each exercise.

While practicing squats and push-ups is a solid start, to make sure you hit all your major muscle groups, you should include moves that involve pushing, pulling, squatting, and twisting, says Ross. Another hint: Exercises that use just one arm or leg at a time tend to be most effective, he says.


HOW TO FIND OUT: Check your hips and hamstrings Since the hips and hamstrings link the upper and lower body, they’re a good gauge of general flexibility. The tests here are preferable to the classic sit-andreach, which can aggravate back pain, says Jessica Matthews, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Point Loma Nazarene University and the author of Stretching to Stay Young.

TRY IT. Lie faceup on an exercise table or bench, your lower legs hanging off the end. Bend right leg and pull knee toward your chest. Next, lie fully on the table with both legs extended; lift right leg toward the ceiling without bending your knee. Do both tests on each side.

SCORE IT. On the first test, if you can pull your knee to about chest level without lifting your opposite leg  and lower back off the surface, your hip flexibility is good. Ditto on the second test, if you can lift your leg to 80 degrees. Less than that means you’ve got tight hamstrings, which can tug on your lower back, pulling your posture out of whack and causing pain.

GET MORE FLEXIBLE. Lie faceup in doorway, left knee bent and right hip near right side of door frame. Extend right leg to the ceiling, back of leg against the edge of the door frame. Flex foot, pressing heel toward the ceiling. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on left leg. Do up to three times a day.


HOW TO FIND OUT: Do the Romberg test Balance may be the easiest component of fitness to ignore while you’re young. It ’s the unsung hero that keeps you from wiping out when you step on a patch of ice and helps you stay upright on a moving bus. A well-tuned connection between your body’s sense of space and your muscles firing is essential to every move you make, from walking to running to standing on your tiptoes to reach the top shelf.

“If you have a sedentary job or life, you may not even realize you have a balance issue until it’s too late or a fall happens,” says Gagliardi of the American Council on Exercise.

And it’s not just about preventing falls. Research shows that not only is poor balance a risk factor for musculoskeletal injuries like ankle sprains, but also, training your balance could actually make positive changes in your brain to improve memory and spatial reasoning.

TRY IT. Stand near a wall with your feet together, arches touching, and cross your arms in front of your chest. Set a timer and close your eyes. The goal: Stand this way without wavering or falling for one minute. If you can do that, you’ve got a good baseline for balance. Overachiever? Try the sharpened Romberg test: Stand with your feet in line heel to toe, eyes closed.

SCORE IT. If you can do the sharpened Romberg test for 60 seconds, it’s a good sign, says Gagliardi.

GET BETTER BALANCE. Practice the Romberg test. Go to the level that feels safe for you, even if that’s sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet together; aim for three 30-second holds. Progress to standing with a narrow stance. If you ace the test, incorporate balance into your strength training with one-legged exercises like lunges or by turning two-legged exercises (like a bridge) into one-legged ones (extend one leg).