Any quality senior fitness test would include an assessment of the basic components of fitness: strength, endurance, balance and coordination, flexibility, body composition, and cardio/aerobic capacity. A deficiency in any of these areas creates serious health risks.
1. The Chair Test and Other Means to Measure Strength
The chair test is a common method to measure lower body strength. This test is performed by sitting in a chair and getting up without using your arms. The chair test is similar to others, such as using weights to do squats, deadlifts, pushups, or an arm-curl test. All of these require that you perform as many repetitions as possible in about 30 seconds or more. You can get these assessments from a trainer or at a local gym.
The following is what I call the no-brainer strength test because it is very simple to perform. First, get down on the floor. If this step is difficult for you, it indicates a serious lack of strength. Second, get up! If you cannot get up off the floor, you completely fail this test.
Not only can falls result in death, fractures or spinal injuries, people who fall and can’t get up may die because they are helpless to save themselves. They are also unable to seek help for others, or escape a dangerous situation.
2. Cardio Endurance and Aerobic Capacity Senior Fitness Tests
Deficiency in this area is a serious matter because cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.
You can have these tests done at a health and fitness facility or measure them yourself.
There are two tests you can do yourself. One test measures your resting heart rate and the other measures your recovery rate. These tests can be done with either a heart-rate monitor or manually. For more on how to do these tests on your own, read my article on How to Measure Heart Rate Recovery & Resting Rates.
VO2 Max testing is the best way of measuring cardiovascular fitness. It measures how your body takes in and uses oxygen. This senior fitness test is performed in a laboratory environment.
3. Balance and Coordination Senior Fitness Tests
Sufficient balance and coordination is essential to avoid being the one out of every three Americans over the age of 65 who fall each year.
Balance enables you to maintain a body position in either a stationary or moving situation. Coordination enables you to move your body smoothly and efficiently. It also allows you to maintain rhythm.
Many things can affect balance, such as inner ear infections, medications, and poor eyesight. A visit to your doctor will help determine if you have any of these problems.
Be sure to do these tests near something that you can hold onto or catch so you don’t fall. Holding any of these positions for one minute or more indicates a good degree of balance.
A simple test to gauge your ability to balance is to stand on one foot, lift the other and hold the position. Next, test the position with the lifted leg extended forward, backward, and to the side. Do these on both sides of your body.
A good indicator of a lack of coordination is rhythm. If you have difficulty dancing to rhythm like you used to, you are losing coordination and reaction time.
Your doctor can easily assess a loss of coordination in his office by using rapid point-to-point, alternating movements.
4. Flexibility Senior Fitness Test
Flexibility is the ability to move a joint or muscle with full range of motion. It is important because it decreases injuries; and changes in body fluids as we age tend to decrease range of motion.
A simple way to measure flexibility is with what is commonly referred to as a sit-and-reach test.
Begin this test by first warming up your muscles. Then, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, feet approximately ten inches apart. Holding one hand on top of the other, bend and reach as far forward as you can as you keep your legs straight.
The closer you are able to get to your ankles or toes, the better your flexibility. Your doctor can assess this, or you can have the distance measured by a trainer.
5. Body Composition Tests
Obesity risks include: coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and stroke. Bottom line -- a high percentage of body fat can kill you.
Body composition testing measures the amount of body fat you have as compared to lean mass. There are several ways in which this can be measured; but I will focus on the two that are most common.
Skinfolds may be measured with calipers. The measurements are typically taken on the abdomen and thigh. Testing may also include the triceps and chest. A calculation of body fat is done based upon the numbers from these measurements.
Calipers can give you a reasonable calculation. However, if you want greater accuracy, find a facility that does hydrostatic underwater weighing. This method measures the difference in body fat as opposed to lean tissue such as bone and muscle.
Prior to the hydrostatic weighing, the person is weighed while dry. They then exhale completely and are immersed while sitting on a scale. Based upon the fact that fat weighs less than muscle under water, the amount of body fat can be calculated.
Both skinfold tests and hydrostatic weighing can be done at exercise or sports facilities and colleges. You may also find locations in your areas by doing an internet search.
Don't be fooled by the old BMI (body mass index), which uses height and weight to determine if you fall into the 'healthy' weight range for your height. BMI doesn't tell the whole story. Some people may weigh much more than what the chart indicates for their height. It's deceiving, because muscle is more dense than fat. With increasing bodies of evidence on the subject, and alternative forms of making body composition determinations, BMI is most likely going the way of the dinosaurs.
DEXA scans measure body composition, including bone density, and harmful visceral fat. The results are based upon your age, height, and gender. You may locate a Dexafit scanner near you at: Dexafit Store Locator.
The good news is that you can slow down, stop, and reverse any deficiencies in these areas of fitness. It’s a choice!