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How fit are you, and how fit do you want to be?

A woman exercising.

There was an interesting article in The Telegraph recently, about five tests that personal trainer Matt Roberts suggests indicate how fast someone is ageing.

The tests; standing on one leg, planking, standing from a seated position, press-ups and a grip strength test cover core and muscle strength, as well as the brain’s ability to coordinate and direct muscle function.

According to the article (and the study behind it), these quick tests give a snapshot of the strength and, by inference, the actual age of the person undertaking the tests.

For anyone so interested, in quick summary, the tests are:

  1. Planking for 60 seconds (good) or 90 seconds (excellent).

  2. Press-ups per minute (20 for men or 1-5 for women good, 30 for men or 6 for women, excellent).

  3. Standing on one leg for 10 seconds per leg (good) or 10 seconds per leg with eyes closed (excellent).

  4. Squeezing a dynamometer at a reading of 20kg for women and 33kg for men (good) or 29kg and 46kg for men (excellent).

The argument behind the tests is that how well an individual does in each of the tests above is an indicator of his or her strength and, by inference, how long they are likely to live a mobile and healthy life.

So how well do you do in these tests?

I am a great advocate of balancing the mental with the physical when training and avoiding the risk of falling into repetitious exercise. To my mind, the problem with this kind of training regime, which relies on doing the same exercises by rotation through time (and then just repeating them infinitum) is that they do not engage the brain or offer a way of measuring progress beyond size measures.

Training for life means moving beyond such superficial measures which, though they may make sense if setting targets such as getting beach ready, for example, have less value as we move through our fuller lives. This is because being strong, agile and retaining the potential to enjoy life means having balanced physical and mental fitness, as well as measuring how fit we are as the years pass.

Overall fitness can lean into muscle building or stamina. It can also include shorter-term gains (especially if events are on the schedule, such as an upcoming marathon). But the key principle remains, which is that the purpose of training in this context is to exercise to maintain energy levels (both physical and mental), flexibility, the ability to respond to demands as they are felt and to live a full and able life.

To my mind, where these five tests come in handy, is in understanding where a person is regarding establishing a training programme within the context of such a longer-term plan. If, for example, the person undertaking these kinds of snapshot tests is unable to perform some, a majority of, or (God forbid!), all of the tests, then that indicates the amount of work that needs to be undertaken short-term, to gain a footing for a more long-term plan.

If, on the other hand, the person undertaking the tests can perform most or all of them without undue difficulty, then that suggests the training programme can begin at a more elevated level.

It is also helpful, in my opinion, to establish regular measuring points moving forward to gauge the progress that has been made and where changes need to be made.

So, if you are so intrigued, regardless of your level of fitness, take the five tests above today and see where you stand (or not, as the case may be) about your fitness and the work that needs to be done to improve.

You may surprise yourself!


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