Exercise: How to Stay Active

Check Your Progress

Why Measure Your Progress?

You are more likely to stick with regular exercise and physical activity when you can see the benefits, so it can be very motivating to measure your progress. Also, measuring progress is a good way to let you know if you are continuing to make progress and if you need to update your goals.

Signs You’re Getting More Fit

As you become more active, you'll probably notice signs that you're getting more fit.

  • You have more energy.
  • Your overall mood and outlook on life have improved.
  • It's easier to do your usual daily activities.
  • Climbing a couple of flights of stairs is easier.
  • It's easier to get in and out of the car.

As you become more active, you'll probably notice signs that you are becoming more fit.

  • You can get down on the floor and play a game with your grandchildren, and get back up again more easily when the game is over.
  • You're sleeping better at night.
  • You have less pain when you move around.
  • Symptoms of an ongoing health condition may improve.

Test Yourself

To find out just how far you've come, you can do the following simple tests that measure endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. You might want to test yourself every month or so. Write down your scores each time so you can see your improvement the next time you test yourself. Test yourself before starting to exercise to get a baseline score.

Testing Endurance

To test your endurance, pick a fixed course -- the distance from your house to the corner, once around the track at your local high school, or from one end of the mall to the other -- whatever is convenient. See how long it takes to walk that distance. Do this test every month or so. As your endurance improves, it should take less time.

Testing Upper Body Strength

To test your upper body strength, count the number of arm curls you can safely do in 2 minutes. If you are just starting to exercise, you may have to stop and rest before the 2 minutes are up. That's okay; it still gives you a great starting point to measure your progress. Repeat the test 1 month later. The number of arm curls you can do should increase.

Testing Lower Body Strength

To test your lower body strength, count the number of chair stands you can safely do in 2 minutes. You may have to stop and rest before the 2 minutes are up if you are just starting to exercise. That's okay; you will be able to measure your progress from this starting point. Repeat the test 1 month later. The number of chair stands you can do should increase.

Testing Balance

To test your balance, time yourself as you stand on one foot, without support, for as long as possible. Stand near something sturdy to hold on to, in case you lose your balance. Record your score. Repeat the test while standing on the other foot. Test yourself again in 1 month. The amount of time you can stand on one foot should increase.

Testing Flexibility

If you've had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before you do this test for flexibility. Sit securely toward the front of a sturdy chair, and stretch one leg straight out in front of you with your heel on the floor, toes pointing upward. Bend the other leg so that your foot is flat on the floor. With your elbows slightly bent and your hands palms down, slowly bend forward from your hips (not your waist) and reach as far as you can toward your toes. How far down can you reach until you feel a stretch? Test yourself again in 1 month. Eventually, you should be able to reach closer to your toes.

If you're not ready to do these tests, don't worry. Just keep working on your current exercises and activities until you are. Also, remember that each person is different. Some will be able to progress with time; for others, reaching a certain level of activity and staying there is right for their age and ability level.