Functional tests are essential for trainers working with adults over 55.
Why special testing?
(blog updated 8/24/2020)
Whether you are a personal trainer, or wellness professional, at some point in time you will interact with the senior adult. Fitness is typically related with the younger or middle aged adult. However, people over 55 need adequate strength, flexibility and endurance to sustain function and perform normal activities of daily life. It is not enough to just test those three things. You have to know that they can get up, take out the trash, lift bags of groceries and move about safely. Functional tests can give you those answers. Therefore, functional tests are essential for the health professional interacting with the senior adult.
How are the tests different?
The typical strength and flexibility tests used with a younger population will usually not meet the needs of the senior adult. And neither will most of the normative values associated tests. Functional tests have their own normative values and have been determined by testing many senior adults.
Delaying frailty and improving functional mobility are primary goals when working with seniors. Functional tests designed for seniors can help identify weaknesses in those areas. Then the trainer can start working on those areas before they become worse. There are many geriatric fitness resources available for geriatric population. Following are brief descriptions of six essential functional tests for senior adults that are easy to perform and require very little equipment.
Six basic functional tests.
30 second chair stand
This tests how many sit to stand and stand to sit repetitions can be done in 30 seconds. It is test of lower body strength and relates to functional activities. Activities like entering and exiting cars or going from kneeling to standing. A variation is the ten repetition chair stand.
30 second chair stand
This is a test of how many arm curls (biceps curls) that can be done in 30 seconds and used an 8 pound weight for men and a 5 pound weight for women. Functionally it relates to carrying groceries, lifting grandchildren or pouring juice from a jug.
2 minute step test
This functional test determines how many times a person can step in place, alternating legs, lifting the knee to about hip height in two minutes. This is a test of endurance and stamina. Good endurance means it is easier doing things that require walking, like shopping, traveling or going to the movies. More stamina means less fatigue and more independence.
Sit and reach
While sitting on the edge of a chair with one leg straight, the senior leans forward and gets their fingers as close to the foot as possible. The distance is measured. This is a flexibility test for the hamstrings and lower back. It relates to function as a role in walking, balance and fall prevention.
8 foot up and go
This functional test begins in a sitting position. The person stands, walks 8 feet to and around cones. When finished, they return and sit in the chair. The test is timed. This measures agility, speed and balance. It relate to safely walking in crowds. Good results can give confidence and self assurance.
This functional test is done by having the person reach behind the back with one arm and over and behind the head with the other arm and attempting to touch the fingers of both hands together. The closer the fingers are to each other is a measure of flexibility. Good flexibility means easier dressing, and reaching overhead to gather objects from shelves.
Knowing how to implement functional tests are essential for anyone working with people over 55. The number of people in this age group continues to grow as the population continues to age. These six functional tests are just a few. There are many more. Many fitness testing software programs like Total PT Fitness will have others to choose from. Being familiar with functional tests can help guide your exercise and fitness programs for seniors, making you a more effective health professional.