Exercise: How to Stay Active

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I tell if I'm making progress?

To find out just how far you've come, you can do these simple tests that measure endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If you've had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before you do this test for flexibility. To find out if you are becoming more flexible, 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.