Fitness Testing Newsletter: Testing the Elderly
Hi and welcome to the September 2009 fitness testing newsletter about the fitness testing of the elderly population.
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Testing the Elderly
Physical fitness has traditionally been associated with the more active young through to the middle-aged population. However, functional fitness is most critical for those in their senior years. It is important for older adults to have adequate strength, flexibility, and endurance to accomplish everyday tasks. Assessing these components of fitness can detect weaknesses which can be treated before causing serious functional limitations.
There are many testing protocols that have been developed to test the elderly population; these are the main ones.
- Senior Fitness Test developed as part of the LifeSpan Wellness Program at Fullerton University, by Dr. Roberta Rikli and Dr. Jessie Jones. As such, the test is sometimes known as the Fulleton Functional Test. It is a simple, easy-to-use battery of test items that assess the functional fitness of older adults. The test describes easy to understand and effective tests to measure aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility using minimal and inexpensive equipment.
- Groningen Fitness Test for the Elderly developed by Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen. It was the test used in a longitudinal study in the Netherlands of age-related fitness in older adults. The test battery comprises tests of a range of fitness components selected and modified to be suitable for an elderly population.
- AAHPERD Functional Fitness Test American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD) Functional Fitness Test was designed for adults over the age of 60 years. The test items are designed to measure the fitness capacity of the low fitness elderly who are not yet frail. The tests measure body composition, flexibility, agility, coordination, upper body strength and aerobic endurance. The tests were designed so that they could be administered by professionals and clinicians in the field who lack specialized measurement equipment, training and resources.
Specific Test Examples
Here are some selected tests from the above protocols, to give you an idea of the type of tests that have been designed specifically for testing the elderly, or are common tests that have been modified to suit testing of older persons.
- Chair Stand Test A test of lower body strength. The subject sits on a stable chair, with their feet shoulder width apart, flat on the floor. The arms are to be crossed at the wrists and held close to the chest. From the sitting position, the subject stands completely up, then completely back down, and this is repeated for 30 seconds. Count the total number of complete chair stands (up and down equals one stand).
- Soda Pop Test A test of coordination. A cardboard platform is made with six circles in a line. Three soda pop cans are placed in every other circle starting from the side of the hand being tested. The participant, seated at the table, grasps the first can with the hand being tested. Each can is then turned upside down into the adjacent empty circle. The participant then returns to the first can turned, replaces it in the original position and proceeds with the other two cans. This whole process is repeated twice, and the best time recorded.
- Arm Curl Test the aim of this test is to do as many arm curls as possible in 30 seconds. This test is conducted with the dominant arm. The subject sits on the chair, holding the weight in the hand. Brace the upper arm against the body so that only the lower arm is moving. Curl the arm up and then lowered through the full range of motion, gradually return to the starting position. The arm must be fully bent and then fully straightened at the elbow. Repeat this action as many times as possible within 30 seconds.
- Chair Sit and Reach Test this is a flexibility test, a variation of the standard sit and reach test. The subject sits on the edge a chair. One foot remaining flat on the floor, the other is extended forward with the knee straight, heel on the floor, and ankle bent at 90°. Place one hand on top of the other with tips of the middle fingers even. Instruct the subject to reach forward toward the toes by bending at the hip. Keep the back straight and head up. Avoid bouncing or quick movements. Keep the knee straight, and hold the reach for 2 seconds. The distance is measured between the tip of the fingertips and the toes.
- 8-Foot Up and Go Test You need a chair and a marker 8 feet in front of the chair. Clear the path between the chair and the marker. The subject starts fully seated, hands resting on the knees and feet flat on the ground. On the command, "Go," timing is started and the subject stands and walks (no running) as quickly as possible (and safely) to and around the cone, returning to the chair to sit down. Timing stops as they sit down.
- Step in Place Test for assessing the aerobic fitness for those who cannot walk freely. The subject stands up straight next to the wall while the level corresponding to midway between the patella (knee cap) and illiac crest (top of the hip bone). The subject then marches in place for two minutes, lifting the knees to the height of the tape. Resting is allowed, and holding onto the wall or a stable chair is allowed. Stop after two minutes and count the number to steps.
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