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What Is The Senior Fitness Test?

If you’ve ever wondered if difficulty rising from a couch or shortness of breath after a walk to the mailbox means you lack fitness, there’s a simple test – the Senior Fitness Test – that can tell you. 

Many older adults are deficient in an important aspect of wellness experts call “power,” referring to the muscular force necessary to perform small, commonplace movements. Put simply, power is the ability to use physical force rapidly and it plays an important role in one’s well-being and quality of life. For example, being able to summon muscle power enables you to recover from loss of balance and avoid a fall, or to quickly catch a door before it closes.    

Strength and Power as We Age

Power and strength erode as we age, though they dissipate at different rates. Strength diminishes up to 3 percent every year beyond the age of 55. Loss of power occurs almost twice as rapidly among seniors, often manifesting in bruising, broken bones, and other injuries that result from diminished muscle vitality. Such decline not only hampers mobility but can discourage older adults from making a lifestyle change – in other words, exercising.

The Senior Fitness Test

Want to know where you stand where fitness is concerned? Track the results of the Senior Fitness Test, six physical fitness exercises you can assess every six to eight weeks, tracking your progress and finding areas for improvement. Keep your doctor aware of the results!

  • Sit to stand: See how many times you can stand up and sit down in a sturdy chair in 30 seconds. The average older adult should be able to do 10 to 19 reps.
  • Arm curls: Sitting in an armchair, see how many arm curls you can do with an eight-pound dumbbell (five-pound for women) for 30 seconds; rotate your palm with each curl. The average older adult should be able to do 11 to 22 reps.
  • Chair sit and reach: In a sturdy chair, extend one leg straight outward (keeping the opposite foot flat), then reach as far as you can toward your toes comfortably. Do two reps for each leg.
  • Back scratch: Standing straight up, reach down the middle of your back, palm down. With the other hand, reach around your side and up your back as far as possible and try to bring both hands together without causing pain. The average older adult should be able to get both hands within 9 inches of each other.
  • Stand up and go: Start from a sitting position and see how long it takes you to stand up and walk for eight feet, before returning to a seated position. An average older adult should be able to finish in 3.8 to 7.4 seconds. 
  • March in place: Bring your knees to mid-thigh height with each step as you march for two minutes, counting how many steps you can complete.

RELATED:  What To Know About Fitness Benefits & Medicare

How to Build Power

Older adults suffering from a loss of mobility and agility can build power. There are several methods that work well, even for seniors who have been inactive for a long time. Using these methods may help you improve your performance on the Senior Fitness Test — but, more importantly, help you continue to have an active, healthy life.

Resistance training can produce marked results, especially when it involves resistance bands, which are small, light and easy to carry, and which work each major muscle group, increasing power, endurance, balance, and flexibility.  

Aquatic exercises are especially popular among older adults, who gain relief from arthritis and other forms of joint pain from water’s natural buoyancy and viscosity. The unique properties of water mitigate problems that seniors often experience exercising in a gym or outdoors. Water also offers a unique form of resistance that helps build power. In water, the faster you move, the greater the resistance and the more you develop muscle power.   

Aquatic workouts are a safer alternative to traditional exercise programs that emphasize impact-based exercises that put a strain on limbs and joints, causing pain and even swelling in some cases. Many seniors simply feel safer exercising in water, where falls and other accidents caused by frailty are less likely. 

Seeking a Balanced Regimen

Fitness experts emphasize the importance of maintaining a balanced physical exercise routine as we age, i.e. cardio, strength, flexibility. In particular, seniors should include resistance training exercises that focus on building power, which can help prevent accidents and keep you active. You can make this easier by building an affordable, safe home gym, and tracking your progress regularly via the Senior Fitness Test. 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It is important to consult with your healthcare professional or doctor before starting any new workout program or making changes to your exercise routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. They can provide personalized guidance and recommendations based on your individual needs and medical history. Additionally, it is crucial to listen to your body and make modifications or seek professional advice if you experience any discomfort, pain, or other adverse effects during exercise.

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