Three physical health tests you should do every day

Three physical health tests you should do every day

Health tests are often effort, invasive and tedious, but they don't have to be.

I've got three tests you can perform every day to get an idea of whether or not you need to invest some time into your physical health.

All of them are based on the work of Dan John, a renowned strength coach (if interested in training or training other people then do yourself a favour and read his books and articles).

Performing these tests is as simple as answering the following questions:

  1. How do you get out of bed?

  2. How do you put on your socks?

  3. How do you stand up from a sitting position?

That’s it. So simple that you'd be right to wonder what the hell they have to do with your physical health, so let's jump right in.

How do you get out of bed?

When you wake up in the morning try to get out of bed without using your arms. In fact put them behind your back so that they're completely taken out of the picture.

This test is even better performed from the floor, so do that instead, but trying it out first thing in the morning when you wake up is worth it anyway, to get a sense of where you're at.

There are studies that show an ability to get up from the floor easily is a decent predictor of longevity (here is the study - the conclusion being: “Musculoskeletal fitness, as assessed by SRT [sitting-rising test], was a significant predictor of mortality in 51-80-year-old subjects.“).

This is what Dan John calls the get up test. You can try multiple different iterations, such as getting up from the floor using both hands, then left hand only, then right hand, then no hands.

The get up test will tell you a lot about your mobility.

How do you put on your socks?

Do you sit down to put on your socks? Tomorrow try doing it while standing up instead. You should be able to balance on one foot while you put a sock on the other, without leaning on anything for support.

Standing on one leg for at least 30 seconds is another one of Dan John's assessments. In fact if you can't do that he won't train you, he will send you to a doctor. For some reason the inability to stand on one leg is a subtle indicator that there is something more serious going on under the hood. Why? He has no idea, but it’s worth remembering that you don't have to understand something for it to be valid.

For example, if you have no idea what a myofibril is, or acetylcholine, or a sarcolemma, you can still build muscle by lifting weights. These words are all biological terms related to how muscles actually work, but you don't need to understand them to know that lifting weights will result in an increase in strength and muscle mass.

If you struggle to put on your socks while standing and without assistance then maybe you should consider a trip to the doctor for a health check up.

This of course might also indicate the need to lose weight. To me the inability to put on your socks without some sort of assistance should be motivation enough to make any changes needed. If you can't do something so trivial as that then think about all of the other ways you might be limiting yourself.

I myself failed this test recently due to a lower back/hip injury. As soon as I was able to put my socks on again I started ramp up training again because I knew I was getting better.

How do you stand up from a sitting position?

Then next time you are sat in a chair or on a couch and go to stand up try doing it without using your arms and without any momentum what so ever (ie. don’t rock back and forth to propel yourself out of the chair). Lean forward and stand using only the power of your legs and your own ability to balance.

This is the basic squat movement in action.

There is a reason that everyone who trains athletically does squats - they are a fundamental human movement. If you struggle with this then you body's mechanics are out of whack.

Either you are not flexible enough or not strong enough, and both are a problem.

As you grow older you will naturally lose muscle, making it much harder to move around and maintain physical independence. Squatting will increase bone density, increase muscle mass, improve balance and significantly reduce the risk of falling and causing injury - this becomes significantly more important as you age (ie. you don’t want to fall and damage your hip, especially when alone).

If you struggle to do this due to excessive weight then you probably don't need to worry about limited mobility when you get older, because you likely won't reach an age where it will matter. That's not me trying to be being funny or make light of people's situation, it's just the truth. How many significantly overweight old people have you ever seen in your life? Losing weight through dietary intervention is the only option here.

Thankfully anyone can improve this movement and get stronger pretty easily. If you struggle to squat then simply hold on to the kitchen sink, or some other anchor, and use it for support as you move in and out of the squat position. Work from there towards being able to do at least 20 deep squats (ass to calves) without support. Once you can do that then try progressing to a single leg squat (Pistol Squat) - a serious test of strength and balance.

What does it all mean

Try all of these tests tomorrow and see how you get on. If you struggle with all three then it's probably time to make a change.

I won't prescribe what that change should look like because that will be different for every person. Despite what online marketing tells you, there is no one size fits all solution to health and fitness, and serious consideration needs to be put into a health and fitness plan for any given person.

The point is if you can't do these three things then you need to seek help. Go find a doctor, a physical therapist and a personal trainer - in that order.


Wiggly Walkers

Wiggly Walkers

Getting slower with age

Getting slower with age