How healthy are you really? Take these 8 tests to find out

I am standing in my bathroom brushing my teeth, one foot hovering at around knee level for a minute, before lifting the other one for the second minute. I then crouch into a squat, trying to allow my body to descend deeply enough to feel the burn. This isn’t part of some newfangled bathroom exercise routine, but rather an attempt at figuring out how likely I am to reach old age in good health. According to experts, the ability to successfully execute exercises as basic as balancing and crouching regularly doesn’t just equal muscle tone and improved flexibility, but also offers an insight into how long you’re likely to enjoy good health for.

Further than this, these simple measures programme the brain to fortify itself against the inevitable wobbles, frailty and infirmity that can come with old age — and the earlier you start doing them, the better. Lotti Sorrell, movement coach and longevity expert, explains: “You need to train those neural pathways by making longevity-enhancing exercises part of your daily life. If you don’t, your brain prunes them off — the principle we use in brain health is that you use it or lose it.”

Enter one-legged toothbrushing and a whole other phalanx of metrics backed by studies. So if you want to future-proof and figure out where precisely you are on the scale, here are the tests to try:

Sit and rise test

You sit cross-legged on the floor, then rise from said sitting position — only without using your knees, hands, forearms or even the side of a leg for support. The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found that it’s a good indicator of musculoskeletal fitness, which Sorrell says “definitely correlates with longevity in older people, incorporating ankle and hip flexibility, as well as knee and core strength”. Don’t be put off if you can’t do it straight away, the technique can take some practice.

Victoria Anderson, registered clinical exercise physiologist at Longevity Health Fitness (, says the benchmark here is around 10 repetitions. “If you can do that, you’re reducing the risk of age-related muscle decline and risk of falls, etc.”

Push-up capacity

Research from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health found that “middle-aged men able to complete more than 40 push-ups had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease” — but the experts say that this isn’t just one for men at risk of a heart attack, with Anderson telling me that “from a functional perspective, those able to perform even a low amount of push-ups — say, one to three — have a higher change of being able to get themselves off the floor after a fall”. Form is vital here when it comes to determining efficacy. “This measures overall fitness well,” says Sorrell, “especially upper body strength and the ability to brace the core which, if done properly, is one of the holy grails when it comes to reducing fragility as we age.”

Push it real good: the number of press-ups you can do is a good measure of overall fitness (Getty Images)
Push it real good: the number of press-ups you can do is a good measure of overall fitness (Getty Images)

The handgrip test

This is an important one, as grip strength is a predictor of a host of biomarkers associated with longevity. A study carried out by Campbell University in North Carolina found that grip strength (or lack thereof) indicates overall strength, upper limb function, bone mineral density, malnutrition, cognitive impairment, depression, sleep problems, and quality of life. Sorrell suggests that the best way to test it is with a dynamometer (a sort of handheld machine that measures grip strength, available for under £20 on The average for a man is 73lbs, for women it is 44lbs. To improve your handgrip strength, teach yourself to hang off a bar in the gym, or even on monkey bars in the park — start with 30 seconds and gradually build up.

The one-legged balance test

This might sound easy — but the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that not being able to complete 10 seconds standing one-legged drastically increased the risk of all-cause mortality. Sorrell suggests building up the time you can stand on one leg to 30 seconds per leg. “If you can, it’s even better if you lift the ankle in circles or, say, tie up a shoe while holding your core really stable, the idea being that doing so switches on more parts of your brain. If you struggle to balance, that old trick of locking eyes with a static item really helps.” The most advanced way is to do it with your eyes closed.

Its all about balance: Can you do the one legged challenge? (Getty Images)
Its all about balance: Can you do the one legged challenge? (Getty Images)

The time in front of the TV test

How often do you stand up and move around? Anything sedentary needs to be offset with movement, with the University of Queensland’s Natasha Reid reporting that spending a lot of time sitting down watching TV “when excessive, has been linked to a range of negative health consequences”. Similarly, Safe Work Australia found that sedentary behaviour comes “with an increased risk of premature mortality [and] chronic health disorders”. But what classifies as excessive when it comes to sitting down? Anderson says we should “stand for five minutes for every waking hour. Even that reduces things like heart disease and risk of strokes.” Sorrell agrees, adding that there are some practices that make sitting slightly less detrimental. “While at the desk, take a moment to stretch through the chest periodically, and engage your core. Also, please don’t cross your legs; doing so unbalances the glutes and hips. Instead, sit with both feet on the floor, with heels connecting to the ground.”

Squats and Bird Dog

Your ability to complete these two exercises is an injury predictor, with a study from the Cedar Health chiropractor and physiotherapist in Canada finding that they’re both key exercises — and improvements will mitigate risk. Anderson says that “squatting means more mobility and less risk of injury, while Bird Dogs (where you go from all fours to lifting an alternate leg and arm, then switching sides) is a good measure of core stability and balance”. Sorrell suggests incorporating these with other exercises to activate muscles as part of a daily routine.” Aim for 10 repetitions a day, building up to more.

10 squats a day can decrease risk of injury (Getty Images)
10 squats a day can decrease risk of injury (Getty Images)

Walking speed

How fast do you walk? The jury is still out on how many steps we should be doing per day, with studies finding that even 4,000 has a protective effect on our health, but speed is, it seems, extremely important. The University of Sydney published a study tying a faster pace with “lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality”. Anderson explains: “The key is to move faster. Aim for a speed of 6km per hour.”

Memory and processing speed

While each person — and each person’s mind — is different, keeping the brain and memory limber is important for mental longevity, with Sorrell advising that “we used to think neural plasticity, i.e. the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire, slowed with age, but more and more research is coming to light to prove that this isn’t the case at all”. There are things we can do to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, with Anderson saying it’s critical to “change stimulus, even if that merely means socialising, to stimulate the brain”. Some tests to try? The usuals like crosswords, puzzles, and sudoku aside, you could try vocabulary and facial recognition on, or anything from a typing test to reaction time test on

The sleep test

How many hours do you sleep each night? Countless studies marry sleep health with increased longevity. One conducted by the American College of Cardiology found that those who achieved five factors contributing to high sleep quality at least five days a week were, over 4.3 years, “30 per cent less likely to die for any reason, 21 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, and 19 per cent less likely to die from cancer”. Sorrell advises: “Try to get around eight hours, put the phone away at least an hour before sleep, and prioritise rest time.”