The Senior Fitness Test was developed at Fullerton University, by Dr. Roberta Rikli and Dr. Jessie Jones. As such, the test is sometimes known as the Fullerton Functional Test. It is a simple, easy-to-use battery of test items that assess the functional fitness of older adults. The test describes easy to understand and effective tests to measure aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility using minimal & inexpensive equipment.
The individual fitness test items involve common activities such as getting up from a chair, walking, lifting, bending, & stretching. The tests were developed to be safe & enjoyable for older adults, while still meeting scientific standards for reliability & validity.
List of Equipment Required
The following is a complete list of the equipment you will need to complete the Functional Fitness Test:
- A Chair Without Arms – preferably a folding chair for greater stability
- A Stopwatch or Watch with a second hand
- 5 Pound Weight for women
- 8 Pound Weight for men
- Piece of String or Cord about 30” in length
- Visible, bright color duct tape
- Counter – to track number of repetitions completed or paper and pencil to track manually
- Ruler that goes up to 12”
- Measuring Tape
- Small Orange Cone
Functional Fitness Tests
CHAIR STAND TEST — Testing Lower Body Strength
Daily Benefit: Lower body strengthis important for activities such as getting out of a chair, on the bus, out of the car, & rising up from a kneeling position in the house or garden. The strength of your lower body can directly affect the ease with which you perform the activities you do every day.
Equipment:Chair without arms, Stopwatch
- Place the chair against a wall where it will be stable.
- Sit in the middle of the chair with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart, back straight.
- Cross your arms at the wrist and place them against your chest.
- The test partner will tell you when to begin and will time you for 30 seconds, using the stopwatch. You will rise up to a full stand and sit again as many times as you can during the 30‐second interval.
- Each time you stand during the test be sure you come to a full stand.
- When you sit, make sure you sit all the way down. Do not just touch your backside to the chair. You must fully sit between each stand.
- Do not push off your thighs, or off the seat of the chair with your hands to help you stand unless you have to.
- Keep your arms against your chest crossed and do not allow the arms to swing up as you rise.
- If you are on your way up to stand when time is called you will be given credit for that stand.
Risk Zone: Less than 8 unassisted stands for men & women.
ARM CURL TEST — Testing Upper Body Strength
Daily Benefit:Upper body strength is important for activities such as carrying laundry, groceries, & luggage. It is also important for picking up grandchildren & giving them a big hug! A lack of upper body strength could keep you from pouring milk from a jug, being able to go grocery shopping for yourself & maintaining your independence.
Equipment: 5 lb Weight & an 8 lb weight, stopwatch & a straight‐back chair with no arms.
Women will curl a 5 lb. weight in this test and Men will curl an 8 lb. weight for their test. It is extremely important to the accuracy of the test that you use the appropriate weight for men & women in this test.
- Your test partner will tell you when to begin and will time you for 30 seconds, using the stopwatch or a watch with a second hand.
- Do as many curls as you can in the allotted 30‐second time period, moving in a controlled manner.
- Remember to do a Full Curl, squeezing your lower arm against your upper arm at the top of each curl and returning to a straight arm each time. Keep your upper arm still.
- DO NOT SWING THE WEIGHT.
- If you have started raising the weight again and are over halfway up when time is called, you may count that curl!
Risk Zone: Less than 11 curls in correct form for men & women.
CHAIR SIT AND REACH TEST — Lower Body Flexibility Test
Daily Benefit:Lower body flexibility is important for preventing lower back pain. It also plays a role in your balance, posture, in fall prevention, and in your gait, or walking. Lower body flexibility is important for maintaining an active, independent lifestyle.
- Place the chair against a wall so it will be stable.
- Slide forward in your chair until you are able to straighten one of your legs. The ankle of your straight leg should be flexed at about a 90‐degree angle. Your other foot should be flat on the floor.
- Place one of your hands directly on top of the other so that they are stacked with your fingers extended.
- Exhale as you bend forward at the hip and try to reach your toes. If the extended leg begins to bend, move back in your chair until the leg is straight.
- Hold the stretch for at least 2 seconds and Do Not Bounce or jerk as you reach.
- Take two practice reaches on each leg. Determine which side is more flexible.
- You will measure and record only your most flexible side on your scorecard.
- Be sure you have a stable chair so that the chair will not tip forward as you reach for your toes.
- After you have completed the practice reaches, your test partner will hold a ruler across the toe of your shoe. The center of the toe of your shoe is considered to be a measurement of “0”.
- Reach forward toward your toes. Mark your score to the nearest half‐inch
- If you reach past this “0” point at the middle of your toe, you receive a positive score of as many inches as you reach past it, measured to the nearest half‐inch.
- If you cannot reach your toes, you receive a negative score of as many inches as you are short of the “0” point at the middle of the toe of your shoe, measured to the nearest half‐inch.
- Try the reach twice and record the better of the two measurements.
Risk Zone: Men: Minus (-) 4” or more; Women: Minus (-) 2” or more.
BACK SCRATCH TEST — Upper Body Flexibility Test
Daily Benefit: Upper body flexibility affects your ability to reach for items that may be high on a shelf, change a light bulb, or do any activity that requires arm and/or shoulder movement.
Maintaining flexibility in your upper body will assist you in continuing to live independently.
- Place your left arm straight up in the air above your left shoulder.
- Bend your left arm at the elbow to reach toward your back, with your fingers extended. Your elbow pointed toward the ceiling.
- Place your right hand behind your back with your palm out and your fingers extended up.
- Reach up as far as possible and attempt to touch the fingers of your two hands together. Some people are not able to touch at all, while others’ fingers may overlap.
- Take two practice stretches with each arm, determining which side is more flexible.
- You will be measuring and recording only your most flexible side.
- You are now ready to be measured. Perform the stretch as outlined above. Without shifting your hands, your test partner will position your fingers so that they are pointing toward each other.
- The distance between the fingertips of one hand and the other is measured to the nearest half inch. If your fingers overlap, the amount of the overlap will be measured.
- Fingertips just touching receive a score of “0”.
- If your fingers do not touch, you receive a negative score of the distance between your fingers, measured to the nearest .5 or half inch.
- You receive a positive score if your fingers overlap, measuring the overlap to the nearest .5 or half inch.
- If you are able to touch your fingers together, do not grab your fingers together and pull, as this will affect the accuracy of your score.
- Do the stretch twice, recording the best score and remember to indicate if the score was positive or negative.
Risk Zone: Men: Minus (-) 4” or more; Women: Minus (-) 2” or more.
8-FOOT UP AND GO TEST — Speed, Agility & Balance Test
Daily Benefit: Important for activities such as walking through crowds, moving in unfamiliar environments & across changing terrain, & crossing the street before the light changes. The better your balance is, the more confident you will be traveling outside your home & living an active life. Your speed & balance directly affect your self‐assurance as you go about your daily activities.
Equipment:Chair, Cone (or other marker), Stopwatch
- Sit in the chair with your hands on your thighs, your feet flat on the floor with one foot slightly ahead of the other.
- Your test partner will hold the stopwatch and stand near the place where you will walk around the marker on the floor.
- Your test partner will signal, “go” and start the watch. For test accuracy, your test partner must start the watch on the signal, “go.” Do not wait to start the watch after the participant has started to move.
- The test is timed to the nearest tenth (.1) of a second, so it is important to be as accurate as possible when starting and stopping the watch.
- Upon the signal “go” rise from the chair and walk as quickly as possible out to the marker. You may press off your thighs of the chair when you rise. Do not run. Walk around the outside of the marker and return to your seat as quickly as possible, being sure to be safe in your movements.
- As soon as you are fully seated again your test partner will stop the watch and record your time to the nearest tenth of a second.
- If you would like to take a practice test before testing for a score you may. You may then take the test twice, recording your best score.
- Remember to record the score to the nearest tenth, for example 4.9 seconds or 8.9 seconds.
Risk Zone: More than 9 seconds.
WALK TEST (6 MINUTES) & STEP IN PLACE TEST (2 MINUTES)* — Physical Stamina/Endurance Test
Daily Benefit:Endurance is important for activities such as shopping, walking for a distance, and traveling. The more physical stamina you have, the more energy you will have to do the things you enjoy. You will also be able to do more with less fatigue. Your endurance affects your ability to perform many of your daily activities and to maintain your independence.
Equipment:Stop Watch, Measuring Tape, Visible Tape (i.e. masking tape or painter’s tape)
Begin by setting the minimum knee or stepping height for each participant. This is at the level even with the midway point between the kneecap and the front hipbone (Iliac crest). It can be determined using a tape measure or by stretching a cord from the middle of the kneecap (patella) to the hipbone. Then you can fold it over and mark this point on the thigh with a piece of tape.
- Your test partner will tell you when to begin and will time you for two full minutes using the stopwatch.
- Begin stepping, being careful to lift your knees to the appropriate height each time so that your knee is level with the tape mark on the wall. Your entire foot must touch the ground on each step to ensure that you are not jogging, you need to “step”.
- Your test partner will count each time you raise your right knee, counting each full stepping cycle. A full step cycle is when both the right and the left foot have lifted off the floor and come back down.
- Your test partner should alert you at each 30 second interval to allow you to gauge how you feel. If you cannot complete the full 2 minutes that is fine, just complete as much time as you can comfortably complete.
- If you wish to rest during the test you may stop stepping, rest and then resume the test. The stopwatch will continue to run and you may start stepping again as long as you are still within the two‐minute test period.
Risk Zone: Walk Test: Less than 350 yards for men & women; Step Test: Less than 65 steps for men & women.
*The Walk Test is used to assess aerobic fitness unless the person uses orthopaedic devices when walking or has difficulty balancing, in which case they do the Step in Place Test
Fitness is very important for those in their senior years. Older adults need to have adequate strength, flexibility, and endurance to accomplish everyday tasks. Assessing these components of fitness can detect weaknesses which can be treated before causing serious functional limitations.