Assess your flexibility: Sit-and-reach test

The sit-and-reach test is a simple way to measure in general fashion the flexibility of the backs of your legs, your hips and your lower back. Here's how:

  • Place a yardstick on the floor. Secure it by placing a piece of tape across the yardstick at the 15-inch (38-centimeter) mark.
  • Place the soles of your feet about even with the mark on the yardstick.
  • Slowly reach forward as far as you can, holding the position briefly.
  • Note the distance you reached.
  • Repeat the test two more times.
  • Record the best of the three reaches.

Estimate your body composition: Waist circumference and body mass index

With a cloth measuring tape, measure your waist circumference just above the hipbones. Record your waist circumference in inches or centimeters in your notebook or journal.

Then determine your body mass index (BMI) — an indicator of your percentage of body fat — through a BMI table or online calculator.

If you'd rather do the math yourself, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiply by 703. Or divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. (To determine your height in meters, divide your height in centimeters by 100).

Record your BMI with the rest of your scores in your notebook or journal.

Monitor your progress

Now that you know your fitness level, keep track of your progress. Take the same measurements about six weeks after you begin your exercise program and periodically afterward.

Each time you repeat your assessment, celebrate your progress and adjust your fitness goals accordingly. Share your results with your doctor or personal trainer for additional guidance. Your results may even inspire you to sign up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.

Feb. 27, 2014 See more In-depth