How Do You Perform Fitness Testing For The Elderly?

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Special Populations Blog

Any person over the age of 35 seeking personal training must be fitness tested before they start, regardless of how able they feel at the time. When it comes to seniors, however, we’re testing their functional fitness. This concerns their ability to perform daily tasks, like lifting themselves out of a chair or lowering themselves down onto a bed. Let’s take a look at why we should be fitness testing the elderly, a few precautions to follow, and three types of fitness tests you can use on older clients:

The Importance of Fitness in Old Age

As mentioned previously, functional fitness in old age is vital for the preservation of independence. The elderly should be able to remain active as long as possible, and some argue that exercise is even more important in old age. It becomes important for aged adults to have the strength, endurance, and flexibility to accomplish everyday tasks. By applying the below fitness testing procedures, fitness professionals can pin-point any issues and work on them, before they cause serious functional harm.

Precautions to Consider

Equally important for getting the elderly functionally fit are the precautions to take when doing so. As with training children, safety needs to be first priority at all times. Never push an elderly person to do something they can’t; rather make a note to work on it, and move on. Only move ahead with an elderly person’s fitness test if you’ve received the OK from their doctor, and screen them for any aches, pains or shortness of breath on the day of the test. Once there are medical supplies and an adequate resuscitator close at hand in case of emergency, you’re ready to start the fitness test.

Fitness Tests for the Elderly

The below fitness tests for the elderly have been designed to be used by fitness professional across the globe. Be sure to assess each thoroughly before deciding on which to use on your clients:

Groningen Fitness Test

This fitness test was developed in the Netherlands by the University of Groningen human movement sciences department. It was used in a study on the fitness levels of the country’s elderly population. This test includes:

  • The grip strength test which is a test of upper body strength.
  • The leg extension test that measures lower body strength.
  • Sit and reach flexibility which is a measure of hamstring and back flexibility.
  • Circumduction that is a shoulder flexibility test.
  • The balance board test that tests agility and balance.
  • The block transfer which is a manual dexterity test or coordination test which looks at fine motor abilities.
  • The reaction time test that also tests fine motor abilities.
  • The walking endurance test that examines aerobic fitness.

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Fullerton Functional Test

The functional elderly fitness test developed by Dr Roberta Rikli and Dr Jessie Jones of Fullerton University. This test is commonly used by physical therapists and fitness professionals.

This test includes the following movements:

  • The Chair Stand Test that tests lower body strength
  • The Arm Curl Test that tests upper body strength
  • The Chair Sit and Reach Test which tests lower body flexibility
  • The Back Scratch Test which is a measure of upper body flexibility
  • The 8-Foot Up and Go Test which tests
  • The Walk Test (6 minutes) or Step in Place Test (2 minutes) — This is used to test aerobic fitness. If the person uses orthopaedic devices when walking or has difficulty balancing they do the step in place test.

AAHPERD Functional Test

Another excellent programme used to test elderly fitness is the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD) Functional Fitness Test for adults over 60.

The following are components of this test:

  • Ponderal Index which is a height-weight ratio. It is an index of body composition.
  • The Sit and Reach Test which measures the flexibility of the trunk/leg.
  • Agility Test that tests agility/dynamic balance, standing up from a chair and manoeuvring around cones.
  • The Soda Pop Test which is an arm and hand coordination test. During this you turn six soda pop cans over in a specified order, one at a time, as quickly as possible.
  • The Arm Curl Test is a seated biceps curl test. It measures muscular strength/endurance of the upper body.
  • 880 yard walk is a test of aerobic endurance. During this, the person being tested will walk the distance as quickly as possible.

Get Accredited with Trifocus Fitness Academy

If you’d like to get into the fitness field as a professional, and you thinking working with the elderly could be rewarding, see our comprehensive exercise for the elderly course. For more information on any of our qualifications, contact us today!

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