You may not need a gym membership if you can pass these everyday health tests-like being able to clip your toes while standing. See how many you can answer "yes" to.
#1 Do you: Feel energized 14 hours after waking up? (If you woke up at 7 a.m., you should still feel awake and active at 9 p.m.).
Exercise is a known energy booster, and if you feel completely zonked at the end of the day, chances are an overly sedentary lifestyle is at least partly to blame. One large study, which analyzed 70 papers on exercise and fatigue that involved more than 6,800 people, found that sedentary people who followed a regular exercise program had less fatigue than people who didn't work out, according to WebMD.
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#2 Can you: Carry large containers of milk or water in each hand, without feeling strain?
Being able to tote a gallon (which weighs about 8 pounds) isn't just about the size of your biceps. That strength also comes from your shoulders, back, chest, knees, and more-all important muscle groups to keep strong as you get older. A lack of strength can make you more vulnerable to injury, as well as conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis and even depression and dementia. One Tufts University study found that after older adults with arthritis followed a strength training program for 16 weeks, their pain levels decreased by 43 percent.
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#3 Can you: Jump up and down 10 times, without causing your heart to race?
This is a sign of a well-controlled heart rate (and good cardiovascular fitness). A gym class or workout routine that emphasizes interval training is a great way to boost your endurance and lower your resting heart rate. A lower resting pulse means your heart has to beat less, and should in turn last longer.
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#4 Can you: Trim your toenails standing up-without any discomfort from the bending?
Shocked at how inflexible you are? Well, let's work on that. Being able to stretch without pain is important not only for bone and joint conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis, but it may also be a clue about other issues like heart health. One study in the American Journal of Physiology found that the inability to stretch past your toes was associated with arterial stiffness, a precursor to heart disease. Incorporate stretch-and-strength yoga-style exercises into your weekly workout regimen.
#5 Can you: Raise your foot as high as your hip when kicking?
Another example of flexibility and strength; if you have trouble with this exercise, yoga-style classes and moves that stretch your hips will help you improve.
#6 Can you: Twist and look behind you without moving your feet?
This test demonstrates good core strength and flexibility; both keys for a strong, healthy, pain-free back.
#7 Can you: Load your luggage into the storage bin above your airplane or train seat without strain?
This is partly about technique (you can't just heave it up there) and partly about back, core, and leg strength. Many of us who focus our workouts around cardio-and skip spine-boosting exercises like yoga, Pilates, and strength training-will have weaker backs than we'd like.
#8 Can you: Carry a large basket of clothing up and down two staircases, without struggle or strain?
This is a test of strength, cardiovascular endurance, and balance; climbing stairs requires more stamina and energy than walking the equivalent amount of steps. Unfortunately, today's modern world of escalators and elevators provides few chances for stair climbing. If you fail this fitness test, try working more stair-climbing opportunities into your day. Walk up and down the steps in your home while on the phone, or opt to use the stairs in your office building or department stores or malls.
#9 Can you: Dance to a fast beat for more than 10 minutes without feeling winded?
A growing body of research shows that you don't need to endure continuous long workouts to reap health perks. In fact, short intense bursts of exercise (10 to 15 minutes) may burn more fat and build more muscle than an hour of chugging along on the treadmill.
#10 Can you: Walk for 30 minutes straight without getting tired?
A daily walk of at least 20 minutes is linked to so many health boosts, you can't even list them all here. But among the top include helping with weight loss and maintenance, boosting mood and energy levels, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and more.
How did you do?
You're in pretty good physical shape if you can handle these mini-fitness tests, especially if you're over 45. And if you can't? Build up slowly with a mix of exercises that emphasize cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and flexibility, the trifecta of fitness skills needed for a long and healthy life.
© 2012 The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Additional reporting by Lauren Gelman from Long Life Prescription (Reader's Digest Association Books)
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