Annual Fitness Testing (Year 1)

I’ve always had an interest in tracking performance over time so this project really excites me. I sat down and went through a huge list of fitness tests to see what my wife and I could repeat every summer. Having reached 35 years old, every source is telling me to expect an imminent physical decline. I am ready to put that to the test.

The Tests

I’m not naïve enough to think I can select the perfect battery of test at the first attempt, so this will evolve over time. I included a wide range of tests covering physical fitness, strength, mental ability and general health. Here’s the list in full:

  • Body Weight
  • Body Fat %
  • Waist Measurement
  • Blood Pressure
  • Peak Flow
  • Fasted Blood Glucose
  • Blood Test – HbA1c
  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Breath Hold (in)
  • Dead Hang for Time
  • Front Plank for Time
  • Fingertip to Floor Distance
  • VO2max Step Test
  • VO2max Bleep Test / 2km row
  • Grip Strength
  • Standing Vertical Jump
  • Standing Broad Jump
  • Maximum Push Ups (60 seconds)
  • Maximum Pull ups / Flexed Arm Hang for Time
  • Mensa IQ Test
  • Quantified Mind IQ Version 3

These can be subdivided into various categories, and that’s how I’ll take you through the baseline results.

General Health

For general health I’m including the first seven tests:

Below you can see the first three results, alongside our height and current age.

Annual Fitness Testing – General Health Results

Blood Pressure

For blood pressure we sit down in a chair for at least 2 minutes and take a reading on both arms. Using an Omron M2 Basic, the sleeve is applied as instructed and with a simple press of a button it whirrs into action and takes our reading. The first number (systolic pressure) should ideally be between 90 and 120, and the second number (diastolic pressure) between 60 and 80.

  • Fraser: 117 / 73 (Left arm) and 115 / 70 (Right arm)
  • Evelina: 122 / 81 (Left arm) and 114 / 76 (Right arm)

Our scores put us on the border of Normal and Pre-high blood pressure, and it’s something we can keep an eye on in future years.

Annual Fitness Testing – Blood Pressure Chart

Peak Flow

Peak Flow is a basic test of lung function you may have been asked to do at the GP. The test involves taking a deep breath in and blowing air through a tube as fast as you can, with the result in Litres per minute. It’s helpful in identifying people with compromised breathing, which varies based on age, sex and height. For a 35 year old male who’s 5’9 a value of 636 L/min is desirable. For a 30 year old female who’s 5’9 that value is 456 L/min.

  • Fraser: 740 L/min
  • Evelina: 460 L/min
Annual Fitness Testing – Peak Flow

Fasted Blood Glucose

Knowing your fasted blood glucose is really important if you’re concerned about diabetes risk. It’s a reflection on both your eating habits and the amount of exercise you do.

I have a GlucoRx Nexus (pictured below) which means we could both test first thing in the morning at home. You prick your finger with a lancet, wipe the first drop of blood on some toilet paper*, and put the second drop of blood on the end of a testing strip. We measured twice and took an average because in my experience it can vary by as much as 0.4 mmol/L.

*the first drop of blood may come into contact with food residue on your skin and give a misleading value

  • Fraser: 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL)
  • Evelina: 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL)

For an 8 hour fasted blood glucose test, the reference ranges are as follows:

  • Optimal Range: 4.0 to 4.7 mmol/L (72 to 85 mg/dL)
  • Normal Range: 4.7 to 5.5 mmol/L (85 to 99 mg/dL)
  • Pre-Diabetic Range: 5.5 to 7.0 mmol/L (99 to 126 mg/dL)
  • Diabetic Range: Above 7.0 mmol/L (above 126 mg/dL)
Annual Fitness Testing – Fasted Blood Glucose

HbA1c Blood Test

If you’ve dramatically changed your eating patterns in recent weeks then fasting glucose can be less reliable. An alternative is to get a blood test for a biomarker called HbA1c. This is often said to be equivalent to a 3 month snapshot of your glucose levels. We tested our HbA1c and got the following results:

Annual Fitness Testing – HbA1c Blood Test

Fitness

The measurements and tests for fitness are as follows:

  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Breath Hold (in)
  • Dead Hang for Time
  • Front Plank for Time
  • Fingertip to Floor Distance
  • VO2max Step Test
  • VO2max Bleep Test / 2km row

Resting Heart Rate

For this test we sat down for several minutes before taking a reading in a seated position. The easiest way to do it is to locate your pulse, count the beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

  • Fraser: 54 beats per minute
  • Evelina: 68 beats per minute

For normative values (a table showing what’s poor, average, good, excellent etc.) visit this Whoop article. I had recently been gifted a Whoop strap by my employer and below you can see my resting heart rate trend at the time. If you have a reliable wearable it’s an even better way to measure heart rate. Notice how it can fluctuate between 50 and 60 bpm in a single week!

Annual Fitness Testing – Resting Heart Rate

Breath Hold (in)

I’m sure I won’t be the only person who didn’t know that holding your breath on the “out” i.e. with empty lungs, is a legitimate test. We did the more traditional “in”, which should actually be done with about 75-80% full lungs rather than taking in as much air as you can. This is another one where it’s a bit vague what’s actually being assessed but someone has tried to create normative values.

  • Fraser: 104 seconds
  • Evelina: 65 seconds

The world record is not around 17 minutes as I first thought, having recalled David Blaine trying to break the record. It is in fact held by Budimir Sobat and is almost 25 minutes!

Annual Fitness Testing – Breath Hold (do NOT do this in water!)

Dead Hang (maximum time)

A dead hang involves hanging from a bar with only your hands, traditionally in an overhand grip. As I have grip strength later on I included this one for a measure of grip endurance. The timer starts when you leave the floor and stops when you next make contact with it.

  • Fraser: 80 seconds
  • Evelina: 32 seconds

I was quite pleased with myself but I’ve since read Outlive by Peter Attia, where he encourages his male patients to strive for a 2 minute dead hang. This is something I very nearly achieved after following Ido Portal’s 30 day hanging challenge.

Annual Fitness Testing – Dead Hang

Front Plank (maximum time)

The front plank was chosen for general endurance and was one of several I picked from the list of tests on Top End Sports. It includes a scoring system, with 6 minutes required to be considered “Excellent”.

  • Fraser: 2 minutes 45 seconds
  • Evelina: 1 minute 10 seconds

Rather than complete failure, we stopped the timer when technique was faltering. The main focus was on ensuring a straight line from heel to shoulder and not sagging at the hips.

Annual Fitness Testing – Front Plank

Fingertip to Floor Distance

I thought flexibility should be included in any assessment of fitness, even if it doesn’t say much on its own. I was using fingertip to floor distance when I spent 21 days improving my hamstring flexibility.

It’s yet another case where I feel the main value is making sure you are at least “average”. The normative values for the seated sit and reach test show that for an average score you should be able to touch your toes. Any distance beyond your toes is given a + cm and anything short is – cm.

  • Fraser: +2cm
  • Evelina: +1cm

While the picture below involves official equipment, we conducted the test on a set of stairs with a measuring tape.

Fingertip to Floor Distance Test
Image Source: researchgate.net

VO2max Step Test

No fitness test would be complete without an assessment of VO2max. This measures the maximum oxygen volume your body can process at any time. It’s possibly the best way to assess your cardiovascular fitness.

An official VO2max test is conducted in a lab, and it’s quite common for people to use an approximation. The Step test, or Queen’s College step test, is one such method. Full instructions for the test can be found here, but the protocol is roughly as follows:

  1. Warm up (5-10 minutes)
  2. Set a metronome at 96 bpm for males and 88 bpm for females
  3. The participant steps onto a 16.25 inch step in an up-up-down-down rhythm to the metronome for three minutes
  4. When the timer is stopped, immediately record the heart rate for 15 seconds
  5. Use an online calculator to determine a score based on the heart rate

I’ve previously compared six different VO2max tests and found the step test to be in the right ballpark. While the traditional tests are close to maximal effort, it’s reassuring to see similar scores for much simpler tests like these.

  • Fraser: 54.2 ml/kg/min
  • Evelina: 39.2 ml/kg/min

It’s also possible to approximate your VO2max from resting heart rate. Those scores were 51.4 ml/kg/min for me and 41.5 ml/kg/min for Evelina.

VO2max Bleep Test / 2000m Row

There really are a broad range of VO2max tests out there and I settled on the shuttle run (bleep test). Evelina hates running so she agreed to do a 2000m row on a Concept2 rowing machine. I’ve done this several times and I find it far worse than a bleep test, but then again I like running. Once you get a time you can plug it into a 2000m row vo2max calculator.

  • Evelina: 21.84 ml/kg/min

Note: this score ended up far lower than her other scores but given she’s sedentary all year round I would say something in the region of 30 ml/kg/min is fair.

Details of the bleep test are in this article for those unfamiliar with it, but the basic premise is:

  1. Set out two cones 20m apart
  2. Play the official Bleep (beep) test audio
  3. Run at a pace so that you can get from one cone to the other before the next beep
  4. Continue until you can’t reach the cone in time

Note: the beeps get faster every “Level”, with each level consisting of 8-12 beeps. If you get to the cone before the beep you must wait for it before setting off in the other direction. Here’s a bleep test score to VO2max conversion table for those who’ve done it before.

  • Fraser: 49.9 ml/kg/min

Strength and Power

This website is called 9to5strength and not 9to5fitness for a reason – I love this type of training. I was pretty confident that the exercises I chose here offered a good overall assessment of strength and power. There was a temptation to include some sort of 1 to 3 rep max lifting weights, but for the high injury risk these were avoided. Here are the tests I chose:

  • Grip Strength
  • Standing Vertical Jump
  • Standing Broad Jump
  • Maximum Push Ups (60 seconds)
  • Maximum Pull ups / Flexed Arm Hang for Time

Grip Strength

This is one that’s often linked to overall longevity and important for the elderly. I have a Camry Hand Grip Dynamometer and I’ve used it in several experiments. It’s as easy as turning it on and giving the handle a good squeeze for 3 to 5 seconds. We tested three times on each hand and took the highest score.

  • Fraser: 58.kg (Left hand) and 56.8kg (Right hand)
  • Evelina: 37.2kg (Left hand) and 38.6kg (Right hand)

I enjoy testing grip strength so much I replicated one of the normative value charts for grip strength, which I’ve added below.

grip strength standards males females
Annual Fitness Testing – Grip Strength

Standing Vertical Jump

For the vertical jump I like the “tip to tip” method.

  1. Stand with flat feet and reach as high as you can with one arm, creating a mark.
  2. Jump and make another mark as high as you can
  3. Measure the distance between the two points

I do this on the outer wall of my house with some chalk. There are mobile phone apps that claim to measure your vertical and I’ve found some to be accurate within 1-2cm. I prefer the wall because it’s far less prone to errors. As this is a maximal effort test we both completed a 10 minute dynamic warm up and some submaximal jumps beforehand.

You can see in the image below the attempts Evelina made (orange) and my first attempt (blue). These marks were made by first chalking the top part of our middle finger and then jumping and touching the wall.

  • Fraser: 56cm (22 inches)
  • Evelina: 36.5cm (14 1/3 inches)
Annual Fitness Testing: Vertical Jump

Standing Broad Jump

The broad jump is another maximal test that requires a thorough warm up. This time all you need is a tape measure laid out on the ground. Make sure the surface isn’t slippery or wet, and it doesn’t need to be a jump into a sandpit. Remember you’re measuring the back of your foot when it lands, not the toe.

  • Fraser: 240cm (7 feet 10 inches)
  • Evelina: 150cm (4 feet 11 inches)
Annual Fitness Testing – Broad Jump

Maximum Push Ups (60 seconds)

The push up test has several variations and I chose one with a time limit. For technique the main point is to have a 90 degree bend in the elbows at the bottom of the movement, and to hold a rigid line from ankle to shoulder. Feet should also be together.

If you’re interested in push up standards for men and women they’re widely available online. I was tempted to let Evelina do push ups from her knees but average for her age would be 7-12 so it seemed fair to test the full push up.

  • Fraser: 38
  • Evelina: 3
Annual Fitness Testing – Push Ups

Maximum Pull ups / Flexed Arm Hang for Time

The final strength test I included was consecutive pull ups. It’s different enough from push ups that I wanted to include both. Since my wife can’t do a pull up, she was to hold the top position for as long as possible. I made sure that my technique was solid by pausing at full arm extension. The cue I used was to pause long enough that someone could take a picture of me without it coming out blurry.

  • Fraser: 12 pull ups
  • Evelina: 13 seconds flexed arm hang

Cognitive Ability

Since I’m tracking changes with age I wanted to include something for any potential mental decline. I opted for a Mensa test, with Mensa being a high IQ society. I ordered two tests online and was disappointed (but not surprised) that they were identical. That means it’s not really suitable for year on year tracking, as we’d eventually start remembering answers. Nonetheless, we completed ours and sent them away to be given an estimated IQ:

  • Fraser: 155
  • Evelina: 148

A free alternative was a website I’d been familiar with for a few years called Quantified Mind. They had a battery of tests called IQ version 3 which we also completed. There are 11 different tests and I certainly felt quite stretched in some of the tasks.

An example test is the Stroop test, which you may be familiar with (pictured below). You are shown a coloured word and you press a button that either corresponds to the colour it spells, or the actual colour of the letters.

Annual Fitness Testing – Stroop Test

Final Word

As you can see, it’s a comprehensive set of tests that should pick up any physical or mental decline with age. The majority of them can be done with either free or inexpensive equipment across a single weekend. If you want to have a go at completing these tests please check out this spreadsheet. I’d love for someone to try them out, especially if you plan to do it every year!

About Fraser_9to5 253 Articles
Site owner. I'm a graduate in Sports Science and have an MSc in Sports Biomechanics. I set up 9to5strength in 2015 as a resource for people interested in strength training, nutrition and fitness. I consider myself a fitness blogger and enjoy creating YouTube videos and trying out workout programs.