Testing your health

There are three reasons for testing your health.

First it might well be good news. You are in good condition.

Secondly it can be a wake up call to do something before it is too late. "My blood pressure was OK ... my liver tested fine ... my blood sugar was normal ... etc". Yes that was true last time. That's good news, but how will you feel the first time that it isn't?

Thirdly if you don't test yourself how will you know that you are improving? If you record your results you will know if you miss any activity. I find it a good motivation.


Reaction time: Average reaction time for a fit person is about 0.27 seconds when measured with a computer or 0.20 when measured with a stick. All you need to test yours is a 30cm ruler and an assistant. Click here.

Bio-age: Patrick Holford's excellent book, reviewed in another page, lists a series of 'bio-age' tests that show you how your physical age compares with your age in years. He also warns against leaping to drugs when high cholesterol or blood pressure is diagnosed. For copyright reasons I can't copy the tests here, but I have included a fair-usage summary here.

Blood pressure: It is a good idea to test your blood pressure regularly and at home. Enlightened medics will agree when you say you always test high when in the presence of health workers. I use an Omron M6 tester which is not expensive and is accurate. I check its accuracy against the one in the waiting room at my doctor's surgery. Vigorous exercise and weight loss are both good ways to reduce your blood pressure. You don't have to eat tasteless food due to absence of salt. Sweat it out! One idea I heard the other day is to test your blood pressure on your left arm, then your right, then the left again. If the two arms give similar readings then your arteries are probably clear.

Fitness: A simple fitness test is called the 'rowing test'. All you need for this is a seconds timer.

BMI (not), waist and WHR: Don't use body mass index (BMI) as a guide to your best weight. It works reasonably well for sedentary unmuscled people but as you develop your body and replace fat with muscle your BMI might well go up above 25 and stay there. Judge by your shape or better still your waist measurement. Women should have a waist less than 90cm (35 inches) and men less than 101 cm (40 inches) to avoid diabetes. Even better, measure your waist then divide it by your hips. This is called Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) and this table shows what to aim for:

Health risk
0.95 or below
0.80 or below
0.96 - 1.00
0.81 - 0.85
1.01 +
0.86 +

Blood haemoglobin: You can buy a pulse oximeter for less than £10 on eBay that clips on a finger and checks that you are not anaemic. A reading of 95% or more is healthy. This is especially important for strict vegetarians and vegans who are likely to have insufficient haem iron in their diets.

Body fat: Digital bathroom scales often can measure fat and water percentages. If yours doesn't it might be time to buy a new one. They can be bought for less than 10 pounds. The table below shows how you shape up on the fat scale. An alternative is to use the body fat formula.

Women (% fat)
Men (% fat)
Essential fat
10 - 13
2 - 5
14 - 20
6 - 13
21 - 24
14 - 17
25 - 31
18 - 25
32 +
26 +

Grip testing: There seems to be evidence that the strength of your grip is a good guide to your general muscle tone. This includes your heart muscle. Time will test the validity but a decent grip tester costs around £20 so why not?

So the final list is:
Blood pressure meter
Pulse oximeter (possibly)
Bathroom scale
Grip tester
Tape measure


Blood pressure tester
Pulse oximeter
Grip tester

Not a lot to check that you are healthy! Especially when you compare it with what you spend on a night out.


(C) Peter Scott 2012

Last edit 15 April 2017