Test Your Fitness

By Carol Krucoff
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 9, 1999; Page Z14

Push-Up Test | Sit-Up Test | Sit-And-Reach Test | 12-Minute Aerobic Test | How To Score Your Test

How fit – or unfit – are you? Tests that assess your fitness level and let you compare yourself with norms for your age and sex can be a good way to find out. They also can provide a baseline to compare yourself with six weeks and six months from now, to measure the results of your exercise program. These tests and scores are based on material provided by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas.

Push-Up Test

Measures muscular endurance of the upper body (anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, triceps).

Equipment: Watch with a second hand.
Preparation: Warm up by doing a few light jumping jacks and arm circles.

  • Place both hands on the floor, about shoulder-width apart, with fingers pointed forward.

  • Place a 3-inch sponge or small box under your chest, or have a partner put his or her fist under your chest.

  • Lift your knees, so that your weight is supported on your palms and toes. Your legs, buttocks and back should be in a straight line. (If this is too difficult, keep your knees on the floor and do a modified push-up, with your body in a straight line from knees to ears. Let your feet come up off the floor and cross them at the ankles or leave them slightly apart.)

  • The push-up begins in this "up" position. Bend your arms and keep your back straight as you lower your body to the floor until it touches the sponge or your partner's fist.

  • Push back up to the "up" position. This counts as one complete push-up.

  • Perform as many correct push-ups as you can in one minute. Any resting should be done in the "up" position.

Sit-Up Test

Measures abdominal muscular endurance.

Equipment: Exercise mat or padded surface, watch with a second hand.
Preparation: Warm up with easy movements such as walking in place.

Note: Full sit-ups with feet secured are done for the purpose of testing abdominal strength. To strengthen the abdominal muscles, crunches are the preferred exercise. When doing crunches, don't have your ankles held down and use your abdominal muscles to curl yourself up only until your shoulder blades lift off the floor.

Sit-And-Reach Test

Measures flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings.

Equipment: 12-inch box (or step), yardstick.

  • Place a yardstick on the box (or step) so the 15-inch mark is flush with the edge of the box. Have someone hold the yardstick there or secure it with tape.
  • Warm up with some easy movements and light stretching.
  • Take off your shoes and sit with your feet placed squarely against the box, straddling the yardstick with one end closest to your groin. Keep the feet no wider than eight inches apart and toes pointed directly toward the ceiling.

  • Place one hand on top of the other, with the tips of the middle fingers even, and lean forward slowly with your legs straight, reaching as far forward along the yardstick as you can. Don't bend your knees, and be sure to exhale as you lean forward.

  • Hold the position for at least one second, being sure not to bounce, lunge or bob.

  • Your score is the point at which your fingertips touch the yardstick at maximum reach, recorded to the nearest quarter of an inch.

  • Perform the stretch three times and use the best of the three scores.

12-Minute Aerobic Test

Measures cardiovascular endurance.

Equipment: Comfortable walking shoes, watch with second hand, indoor or outdoor track.

  • Do not eat a heavy meal or smoke for at least two hours before the test.
  • Warm up for several minutes by walking at an easy pace, then stretch gently.


  • Using the inside lane of the track, cover as much distance as possible in 12 minutes. You may walk, jog or run.

  • Record the distance you covered. (Each completed lap is a quarter of a mile.)

  • Cool down by walking at a comfortable pace for several minutes.

Now, find out how you did.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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