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Prepare for New Year with fitness tests

January 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
It's a new year and for many of us that means a new resolution to get fit and healthy.But jumping into a new exercise program can sometimes lead to injury, which can backfire on your goals.

How about one more resolution? Take a fitness test before you get going.

Many of us have already started our New Year's fitness programs. Others are still contemplating what to do. Here is a set of tests you can do at home to find out what kind of shape you're in.

Three of the biggest components in fitness are flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness.

Here are some tests to try at home that can take as little as 15 minutes to find out what kind of shape you are in before you start a program.

Cardiovascular test

Walk for 10 minutes and record your distance. If you are on a treadmill, check your distance. If you don't have one, wear a pedometer and count steps.

Try to increase your distance or steps every time you take a walk.

Give yourself six to 12 weeks of consistent physical activity to allow for improvements.

According to Consumer Reports on Health, your walking speed and ability to rise from a chair are two predictors of longevity. Being good at both makes you 50 percent more likely to live longer than those who struggle.

Strength test

Count how many half sit-ups you can do in a minute. To do a half sit-up, lie on your back with your knees bent and curl your trunk off the floor toward your knees, keeping your lower back flat on the floor. Curl up your shoulders and reach your hands on your legs so your fingers slide forward about 3.5 inches.

Here is the gauge from adultfitnesstest.org:

Averages for women 25 for women 40 to 49; 31 for those 50 to 59; and 12 for those 60 to 69.

Averages for men 33 for men 40 to 49; 39 for those 50 to 59; and 18 for those 60 to 69.

For half sit-ups, work towards doing three sets of 25 half sit-ups.

Strength test #2

Standard and Modified Push-Up (Alert! If you have shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain, doing this test may aggravate your condition.)

The muscles of the upper body and shoulders are another frequently measured muscle group. Several tests (for example, pull-up and push-up) are used to measure the strength and endurance of these muscle groups. Less muscular strength and endurance of the upper body and shoulder group may increase the chances that a person may have shoulder pain in middle or older adulthood.

And for push-ups work, toward doing three sets of 10 to 20 push-ups (taking a short rest between each set).

Flexibility test: Sit and reach

The flexibility test should be done after the cardio test as your muscles need to be warm in order to stretch.

Take the sit-and-reach flexibility test. Sit on the floor, legs extended in front of you, reach your hands down your leg and see how far you can go.

If you are at your knees, you've got some work to do on flexibility if you can reach past your toes you are doing well.

Do this three times, recording how far you reach on your farthest stretch.

Remember flexibility helps you remain mobile as you age and some studies show that flexibility is a good determiner of artery health as well. So staying flexible is crucial. Keep this in your fitness plan.