Are You Out of Shape?

Perhaps you're one of those people who were active in high school or college and considered yourself physically fit. But aging, sedentary lifestyles, stress from work, and life in general gets in the way of the many things you wish you could do for your health.  But at least you're not as bad some people...right?  How do you now if you are still physically fit or if you are out of shape?

Before I give you an industry standard, honestly ask yourself what "physically fit" means for you, and if you consider yourself fit.  Don't go off how you look, because as we can see in the picture above our bodies are so different.  You may be very worried about how you look, but still be considered healthy.  Being thin and being fit are two different things.  You may be moderately active, but do you feel you are fit?   

Keeping that in mind, if you must have some kind of test with which to judge your physical fitness, look no further than the tests we took in Jr. high gym class. Did anyone else just shudder? If you ever had anxiety over PE, you are not alone!  The tests we took then, however, are actually still a good benchmark for health. They measure our flexibility, strength, and endurance.  You may not have a whistle- wearing gym teacher looking over your shoulder, but here are four tests you can give yourself:  

Toe Touch: Flexibility is important but it isn't everything.  If you can bend over and reach "near" your toes or even ankles without a lot of groaning on the way down or up, you are probably within a good range.  On the other hand, if turning over your right shoulder in the car to reach behind you is a challenge you may want to consider a yoga or stress relaxation class.

Push-ups: An average 40 year old man should be able to do about 27 push-ups in a minute.  An average 40 year old woman's standard is 21. The military requires 45 push-ups per minute to graduate from basic training with 75 being the highest level. Most of us can't even do 5 real ones, no knees ladies!  Time yourself and create a base line.  Then start doing as many push-ups as you can without stopping and without dropping to your knees.  The next time you do them, add one more. Slowly you will start to build strength and the consistency will help you work up to your goal. 

Sit-ups:  Much like push-ups, sit-ups are timed by the minute.  Sit-ups can be a great measure of overall body strength because a good, well executed sit-up engages so much of your body.  When you do a sit-up, make sure your heels are close enough to your body that your fingers barely touch your heels.  Lie down and touch the floor over your head.  Then sit all the way up and touch the floor between your feet.  Repeat without jerking or straining your back.  For men ages 35-45 an average score is 29 sit-ups per minute.  For women in the same age group the average is 22.

Mile Run:  If you were like most kids in my gym class, the mile "run" was more like a jog/walk/talk.  I think our coach just said we had to finish under 10 minutes.  Some sources say an average 40 yr old should be able to run a 9 minute mile.  Because our bodies are so varied, I would say that the time is maybe not as important as duration.  Can you run a full mile without stopping?  Start with a walk, build to a fast walk, then to a jog, to a run and then time yourself and see how you progress.  

These tests may seem basic, but the truth is they offer a simple way to gauge your overall fitness.  If you are trying to get back into shape, start with these tests and see where you are.  No matter what the results are, let it motivate you to start (or continue) a fitness plan.