7 Fitness Tests That Gauge Your Life Expectancy
Ever wonder how long you'll live or how healthy you'll be? Certain bodyweight exercises and cardio workouts could hold the answer
Remember when you were told the lines on your palm could predict the number of children you'd have or how long you'd live? Though fun for your 16-year-old self, we're sure you know just how reliable that intel really was (about as reliable as your horoscope). But there is a way-several ways, actually-to predict your lifespan. In fact, simple bodyweight exercises can do the trick. There's a slew of new research suggesting that how well you complete certain exercises can dictate just how healthy you are and, in turn, how long you can expect to be on this planet. (Find out How Weights and Cardio Cut Breast Cancer Risk.)
"Almost any bodyweight exercise or test of strength, coordination, and fitness is highly predictive of lifespan," says Michael J. Joyner, M.D., a physician-researcher at the Mayo Clinic. "The main message is that frailty, inactivity, and low fitness do not bode well for people in the long run." So take these seven tests to determine your weaknesses, then work on strengthening them not only to tone up and slim down but to tack on a few years to your life.
Hand Grip Test
What it reveals about your health: Having a firm handshake isn't just important for sealing the deal after that job interview. A new study in The Lancet found that the firmness of your hand grip is correlated with heart health, and can be an indicator of your risk of early death, disability, and illness. In fact, researchers say a simple hand grip test can be better than your blood pressure at assessing your health. In this study, people were between the ages of 35 and 70, but younger people would we be wise to take this test as well: "Those with low grip strength in their late teens do worse over many decades," says Joyner.
6-Minute Walk Test
What it reveals about your health: This simple test measures your aerobic capacity, which can tell you about your heart health as well as neuromuscular function. "The distance people can walk in six minutes is highly correlated with aerobic capacity," says Joyner. "High aerobic capacity means the heart and lungs are in good shape and is also inversely proportional to death from cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality."
How it works: Use a GPS watch or pedometer to calculate distance while walking on a hard, flat surface for six minutes at your own pace. Here are the specific guidelines from The American Thoracic Society.
What it reveals about your health: This test determines how flexible and strong you are. "The key is that, to do it quickly, you have to have enough quad strength and balance to get up," says Joyner. As we age, having quad strength is important for reducing the risks of slips and falls, he explains. "Also, if you can't do this easily you are more likely to become frail, and frailty is a bad sign for longevity."
How it works: Sit on the ground with legs crossed Indian style. Get back up without using hands (it's tougher than it sounds!). For details and how to score yourself click here.
What it reveals about your health: "To do this repeatedly you have to have quad strength, balance, and also some endurance-all of these are the opposite of frailty," says Joyner.
How it works: Set a timer for 1 minute and stand in front of a chair. Sit down and stand up as many times as you can before the timer goes off. In one study, women were able to do between 21 to 36. See how you stack up. (To find out more health stats, you could get a one-on-one opinion. But Are Personalized Fitness Assessments Worth It?
Standing Stork Test
What it reveals about your health: Being able to balance is linked to longevity because it's strongly related to coordination-and it prevents injury. The stork test can give you a sense of where you stand (or wobble) balance-wise.
How it works: Set a timer or have a friend time you. Stand on one leg and place the other foot at your knee (see exactly how to do it, plus what the results mean here). Rise up onto toes and hold the position as long as possible. When you fall, stop the timer.
What it reveals about your health: This simple exercise is a great test of your overall strength, says Joyner. Specifically, it's a test of the endurance of your chest, shoulders, and triceps, per the U.S. Army, which uses the move as part of its physical fitness test.
How it works: Perform as many pushups (no going down to knees!) as you can in 2 minutes. Check out the strict military standards here. Here's how the military judges results for women:
- Ages 22 to 26: 17 to 46 pushups
- Ages 27 to 31: 17 to 50 pushups
- Ages 32 to 36: 15 to 45 pushups
- Ages 37 to 41: 13 to 40 pushups
- Ages 42 to 46: 12 to 37 pushups
- Ages 47 to 51: 10 to 34 pushups
What it reveals about your health: This test measures your cardiovascular health by determining what percentage of your max heart rate you get to before quitting. A score of 100+ means you have a 98 percent chance of making it through the next decade.
How it works: You'll set the incline at 10 percent (we know-ouch!) and start walking at a slow 1.7 mph speed, then increase your speed every three minutes until you're completely spent. (You can find out more about how to do it in Can Your Life Expectancy Be Determined By a Treadmill?) But you may want to consider heading to your M.D. for the best results with this one.