A little exercise goes a long way. To gauge how much you're getting, measure your fitness level with these at-home tests.
You don't have to be an iron woman to reap the benefits of physical activity, but you do have to keep your body moving. Find out where you fall on three fitness scales compared with other women in the same age group.* If you score low, don't sweat it. Follow the advice below and you should see results in a few weeks' time.
* If you've been inactive or have medical conditions, check with your doctor first. These tests were developed by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Cooper Institute.
1. Aerobic Fitness
The Test: Walk one mile as fast as you can and time yourself with a stopwatch.
How to Improve: Start logging 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (the equivalent of walking at a three-mile-per-hour pace) five days a week. Boost the amount of activity by 10 percent each week, and build the intensity. For instance, you might spend ten minutes alternating between fast and moderate walking.
2. Upper-Body Strength
The Test: Do as many modified push-ups (with your knees on the floor) as you can. When you start to lose perfect form (if your back sags, for example), stop.
How to Improve: Begin by strength training three times a week on nonconsecutive days. Shoot for eight to 12 push-ups at first, and over time, build to two to three sets.
The Test: Place a yardstick on the floor and put a long piece of masking tape at the 15-inch mark, perpendicular to the stick. Sit with your heels on the near edge of the tape about a foot apart, with the yardstick centered between them. Slowly reach your arms forward, palms down. Release and repeat. Record your top distance.
How to Improve: Stretch daily. Stand with one leg extended in front of you, your heel on the floor or a low step. Hinge forward from your hips, keeping your back straight, until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat two or three times on each leg. This may help with lower- back pain, which is often linked to tight hamstrings.