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5 Tests to See How Well You Are Aging

Take this series of self-tests to find out if you’re above average — and what it takes to get there


spinner image four drawings of fitness exercise text moves standing on one leg for balance walking for aerobics squats for strength and reaching for toes from sitting position for flexibility
Illustrations by Elena Lacey

If we had a pill that accomplished everything that physical activity does for overall health, we would prescribe it for everyone,” says Donald Hensrud, M.D., former medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

Overall fitness isn’t just about breaking a sweat; it’s about four specific areas — aerobic endurance, muscular strength, flexibility and balance, he says. “Where you currently stand with each can help you plan the smartest approach when it comes to creating your own personal fitness regimen.”

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These tests, and the scoring charts, are based on a series of assessments used by the Mayo Clinic to test the health and fitness of its clients.

To get the most accurate assessment:

  1. Take each test before you exercise (if you already have a routine).
  2. Don’t try them if your muscles are sore, stiff or tired.
  3. Warm up first by walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Wear loose clothing that doesn’t restrict movement, as well as comfortable, supportive sneakers.

NOTE: If you’re new to exercise, always check with a physician before starting a fitness program for the first time.

Aerobic fitness

Why it matters: “Aerobic [or cardiovascular] fitness is one of the best indicators of long-term health and overall mortality,” says Hensrud. “The higher your aerobic level, the more oxygen your heart and muscles are able to utilize to produce energy.” Walking pace is a great measure of fitness. A 2019 study of nearly 475,000 people in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that those who walk more briskly have longer life expectancies.

Test yourself

spinner image a car tracking off one mile and a man walking the distance afterwards
Elena Lacey

1. The 1-mile walk

  • Measure out 1 mile on a flat road using your car’s odometer, or find a standard quarter-­mile track — four laps around the track equals 1 mile.
  • Using the stopwatch function on your smartphone, start the clock and walk as quickly as you can. Don’t run or jog. Just keep up a steady pace, slowing down or speeding up as you like, but try to finish as rapidly as possible. Then stop the clock.
spinner image One-mile walk test: score yourself
In your 50s
Excellent less than 13:24 for men or 14:42 for women
Good 13:24 to 14:24 for men or 14:42 to 15:36 for women
Average 14:25 to 15:12 for men or15 :37 to 17:00 for women
Fair 15:13 to 16:30 for men or 17:01 to 18:06 for women
Very Poor more than 16:30 for men or 18:06 for women
In your 60s
Excellent less than 14:06 for men or 15:06 for women
Good 14:06 to 15:12 for men or 5:06 to 16:18 for women
Average 15:13 to 16:18 for men or 16:19 to 17:30 for women
Fair 16:19 to 17:18 for men or 17:31 to 19:12 for women
Very Poor more than 17:18 for men or 19:12 for women
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Improve your score

“Incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise into your week,” advises Hensrud.

Walking, running, cycling, stair-­climbing, swimming, dancing and aerobics classes are just a few of the options that work. What counts is elevating your pulse to between 60 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) and keeping it there for the entire session.

Roughly, that means exercising hard enough that you can carry on a conversation, but with a little bit of difficulty. Alternatively, get yourself a heart-rate monitor. To find your MHR, just subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 60, your MHR would be 160 (220 minus 60). That means you would need to keep your pulse at between 96 and 112 beats per minute.

Flexibility

Why it matters: “Staying flexible stimulates blood circulation, promotes better posture, relieves stress and postural-related pain, and allows your joints to move through their complete range of motion,” says Hensrud. That last benefit alone helps to improve your overall performance while simultaneously lowering your risk of injury during any activity.

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Test yourself

spinner image person doing a flexibility test with the person sitting on the floor with their legs spread and a yardstick even with their knees and bending from the waist and stretching their arms out
Elena Lacey

2. The sit and reach assessment

This simple test measures your range of motion in the lower back, hips and hamstrings (the backs of your thighs).

Put a yardstick on the floor and hold it in place with a piece of painter’s tape at around the 15-inch mark. Sit on the floor with the yardstick between your legs, placing the soles of your feet even with the 15-inch mark. Extending your arms, exhale as you gently reach forward as far as possible, holding the position for at least one second. Repeat the test three times and record the farthest reach of the three.

Your flexibility is considered on target if your fingers reached the following distances.

spinner image Flexibility test  in your fifties average is 16.5 inches for men or 19 inches for women in your sixties average is 15.5 inches for men or 17.5 inches
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Improve your score

“Implement a full-body stretching routine two to three times weekly,” says Hensrud. Include stretches for the neck, shoulders, chest, upper back, lower back, hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and feet.

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Muscular strength

Why it matters: “Your muscles do more than just make you more functional and able to participate in activities throughout the day. The amount of muscle you have also determines your basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body burns at rest,” says Hensrud. Here are two ways to judge.

Test yourself

spinner image for the push up self test men should do full push ups and women can perform them from their knees instead
Elena Lacey

3. The push-up test (for upper-body-strength)

Men: Get into push-up position, hands shoulder-­width apart, legs extended and back straight. Slowly bend your elbows until your chest nearly touches the floor, then push back up. Do as many as you can with good form and without resting.

Women: Do the same, but from a kneeling push-up position.

Test yourself

spinner image demo of a squat move the woman stands about a foot in front of a chair and squats back so that her rear is just about touching the chair then she will stand up again
Elena Lacey

4. The squat test (for lower-body strength)

  • Stand about 12 inches in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart and your arms extended straight out in front of you.
  • Holding this posture, slowly push your hips back and bend your knees until your butt almost touches the seat of the chair. Slowly stand back up. Do as many as you can without using your arms to help.
spinner image Push-ups test: In your 50s excellent is 21+ for men or 21+ for women
Average is 10-12 for men or 7-10 for women
Very Poor is 6 or fewer for men or 0-1 for women
In your 60s excellent is 18+ for men or 17+ for women
Average is 8-10 for men or 5-11 for women
Very Poor is 4 or fewer for men or 0-1 for women
Squats test for ages 46-55
Excellent is 36+ for men or 28+ for women
Average is 22-24 for men or 14-17 for women
Very Poor is 12 or fewer for men or 4 or fewer for women
for ages 56-65 Excellent is 32+ for men or 25+ for women
Average is 17-20 for men or 10-12 for women
Very Poor is 8 or fewer for men or 2 or fewer for women
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Improve your score

For both the push-up test and the squat test, perform a mix of resistance exercises that work both the upper and lower body two to three times a week. Rest for 24 to 48 hours between workouts.

Balance

Why it matters: “Most people think of osteoporosis as the main cause of hip fractures when, in reality, it’s instability,” Hensrud says. “Having better balance leads to fewer injuries and greater independence.” A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine recently linked the ability to balance on one foot for at least 10 seconds to a reduced risk of mortality in people ages 51 to 75.

Test yourself

spinner image man doing a balance test standing on one foot to improve balance, practice the test and do things like walk outside on uneven surfaces
Elena Lacey

5. The one-legged balance test

Stand barefoot next to a wall or countertop. Lift one foot an inch or two off the floor to balance on one leg. See how long you can last before you need to put your foot back down or reach for support. Repeat the test on your other leg. Do the test three times with each leg; record the best of the three tries.

Now perform the test again with your eyes closed.

spinner image One-legged balance test: in your 50s average, eyes open is 41.5 seconds for men or 40.9 seconds for women
average, eyes closed is 8.6 seconds for men or 30.4 seconds
In your 60s average, eyes open 33.8 seconds for men or 30.4 seconds for women
Average, eyes closed is 5.1 seconds for men or 3.6 seconds for women
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Improve your score

Simply repeating this test every day is a great place to start, but you can easily boost your balance by routinely engaging in activities that safely challenge your stability, such as walking outdoors (particularly on trails or grass), doing leg exercises that work one leg at a time (such as lunges), or taking core-strengthening classes like yoga, tai chi, dance and Pilates.

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