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Healthy Living

Four fitness tests

Test 1: Aerobic Capacity

Aerobic Test

This walking test measures aerobic fitness, or the ability to exercise without getting winded. You need a watch with a second hand, a measured track such as a quarter-mile track at many schools. Alternatively, use your car's odometer to mark out a one-mile course along a level road. Walk one mile as briskly as possible without becoming winded or dizzy, recording your time in minutes and seconds.

Before checking your time against the chart, adjust the time according to your weight. Men should add 15 seconds for every 10 pounds they weigh over 170 or subtract 15 seconds for every 10 pounds under that. Women should make the same adjustments for every 10 pounds above or below 125.

Test 2: Flexibility

Flexibility Test

To measure your flexibility, tape a yardstick to the floor, then tape a foot-long strip of paper perpendicular to it at the 15-inch mark. Warm up with some light stretches. Sit on the floor with your legs extended on each side of the yardstick with your feet touching the paper strip about 12 inches apart. The lower numbers on the yard-stick should be near you. With arms straight in front of you and one hand overlapping the other with the fingers aligned, lower your head and slide your hands forward as far as you can down the yardstick without flexing your knees or straining. Hold for one second and record the farthest point you reach. Do the test three times, then check your best score against the chart.

Test 3: Muscle Strength

Strength Test

This test, developed by the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., doesn't require store-bought or homemade weights. Because you use your own body for resistance, it evaluates your strength relative to your weight, unlike weight-lifting tests in which people of different heights and weights lift the same amount.

With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand 6 to 12 inches in front of a kitchen chair as if you were going to sit down. Cross your arms over your chest and keep your back as straight as possible. Squat slowly until your buttocks lightly touch the chair seat, then slowly stand. Take four full seconds to lower yourself and two seconds to rise. As you squat, don't let your knees extend beyond your toes. Do as many leg squats as you are able to without bouncing, feeling pain, losing your balance, or going faster than six seconds per squat. Practice several times before you take the test.

Test 4: Balance

Balance Test

Poor balance increases the risk of falls and broken bones and the risk of injury increases with age. If you're age 50 or older, take this balance test using a watch with a second hand or stopwatch feature. It's preferable to have another person time you. Wear sturdy shoes without slippery soles. If you feel you may fall, stand next to a chair or wall to steady yourself if needed. If you're frail, ask someone to stand nearby to help steady you if you begin to lose your balance.

Bend the knee of one leg (the weaker leg if you're aware of the difference) and balance on your other foot with your eyes open and arms at your sides. Time how long you can keep your foot raised. Do it three times and use the best result.

On to the results. . .

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