6 Self-Tests for Physical Fitness

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  • 01 of 07

    The How and Why of Physical Fitness Tests

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    Seniors trying to stay fit sometimes feel trapped in a world of unrealistic expectations. Running only five minutes a day has great health benefits, we are told. Never mind that for many grandparents running five minutes is an impossibility. Squats and lunges are must-do exercises? Both can make older knee joints scream. And as much as we love watching the exploits of senior athletes, only a few of us are cut out for late-in-life glory.

    Sometimes the flood of inappropriate advice just makes...MORE grandparents want to give up. Then we think of wanting to stay around for a grandchild's wedding, and we resolve to enter the fray anew.

    One way to gain some perspective is by taking some simple physical fitness tests, ones that you can try at home. The results may not be precise, but they will give you a general idea of how you rank against your peers. Then you can assess whether you should continue with your present exercise regimen or step it up a notch.

    As always, you should check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. And if you haven't worked out in a while, it's possible that you shouldn't even try these tests without a medical consult. If you lead an active lifestyle, go ahead and give these tests a whirl.

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  • 02 of 07

    Chair Stand Test

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    The simple act of getting out of a chair can become difficult for grandparents, and that difficulty may indicate a decline in physical fitness. Whether this is true can be measured with a simple physical fitness test.

    A armless, straight-backed chair is placed against a wall for stability. Sit in it with arms crossed on the chest. Keeping the arms on the chest and the back straight, stand up and sit down as many times as possible in 30 seconds.

    This test should not be done while alone because of...MORE the hazard of becoming dizzy from the up-and-down movement. If your physical condition is questionable, ask your doctor to give you this test in the office.

    The test measures lower extremity strength. Also, a poor score indicates that one may be at risk for falls.

    Learn more about the chair stand test from the CDC, where you can evaluate your results

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  • 03 of 07

    Arm Curl Test

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    This is a test of upper body strength. Men should use an 8-pound dumbbell. Women should use one weighing 5 pounds. Testing is done on the stronger or dominant side while seated in an armless straight-backed chair. The beginning position is with the arm hanging straight down, palm facing the body. Bend the arm at the elbow and bring the lower arm up to touch the upper arm. The arm is simultaneously rotated so that the palm holding the weight faces the upper arm. Keep the upper arm immobile, and...MORE do not swing the weight.

    The results are based on how many repetitions can be completed in 30 seconds.

    See the arm curl test calculator

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  • 04 of 07

    Chair Sit and Reach Flexibility Test

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    Another simple to take test, the sit and reach test gives you information about flexibility, a most important asset for seniors and for grandparents.

    Sit on the edge of a straight-backed chair that has been placed against a wall for stability. Plant one foot firmly on the floor, with knee bent at a 90 degree angle. Extend the other leg straight, with heel resting on the floor and foot flexed (pointed toward the ceiling). Place one hand on top of the other and reach for the toe. Once you have...MORE reached as far as you can, hold the position for two seconds.

    If you can't reach the toe, your performance is rated as poor. Reaching the toe constitutes an average performance, and reaching past the toe is considered good.

    Again, don't do this test without someone nearby in case you lose your balance. Also, if you have osteoporosis, ask your doctor before trying this test.

    This test is better for older individuals than the traditional sit-and-reach flexibility test because this one does not require sitting on the floor with legs extended, a difficult and uncomfortable position for many older individuals.

    Increase your flexibility by stretching. Although experts used to recommend stretching before a workout, now it is recommended that you stretch afterwards, while muscles are warm. Hold stretches without bouncing. Yoga is excellent for seniors working on flexibility.

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  • 05 of 07

    Timed Up and Go Test

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    The TUG test, for Timed Up and Go, is a test of functional mobility. It requires that you rise from a chair, walk three meters, turn, walk back to the chair and sit down. Do not attempt to run or jog. If you use a cane or walker, use it during the test.

    The goal is to perform the test in less than 14 seconds. If more than 14 seconds is required, you may be a fall risk.

    Although it is a simple test that can be performed at home, be sure to have someone with you when you do it, and ask your doctor...MORE if you have doubts about whether this test is right for you. If you have difficulty with this test, you should consult your doctor and see if there are steps that would improve your functional mobility.

    See detailed directions for the TUG test

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  • 06 of 07

    The 12-Minute Run Test

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    Developed by Dr. Ken Cooper, the father of aerobics, back in 1968, the 12-minute run assesses how well one can use oxygen while exercising. It's simple to administer. You simply warm up, then see how far you can walk or run in 12 minutes. If you do this one outdoors, you'll need to do it on a measured track. If you do it on a treadmill, you should set the incline on 1 to more closely simulate a natural running experience.

    This test isn't very helpful for those whose muscles, joints or...MORE nerves keep them from going fast. It's most informative for runners. And the bar is set fairly high. For example, a 66-year-old woman would need to run about a mile in 12 minutes to win an "average" rating. 

    Calculate your results for the 12-minute run.

    Extra warning: Unless you are already a runner, check with your doctor before taking this test.

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  • 07 of 07

    One-Legged Balance Test

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    Let's take a look at one more test, one that is slightly different from the others. Can you stand on one foot for at least 20 seconds? New research indicates that the inability to stand on one foot for this amount of time is associated with poorer scores on a dementia assessment scale and a greater incidence of small brain injuries such as micro-bleeds. In other words, this simple test might have some predictive value in determining who will get dementia. 

    To take the test, you don't have...MORE to do a fancy pose. Just balance on one foot.

    The research will be need to be replicated and expanded before it can be totally accepted. But this test is a good reminder that fitness means brain exercise, too. And physical exercise is good for the body and good for the brain.

    You might have difficulty with this test for reasons that would not indicate a dementia risk. If concerned about your results, consult your doctor.