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Staying independent

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

How much fitness is needed to stay independent? Are you on track to stay independent?

As we age, adequate functional fitness such as strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, and balance is critical whether our later life interests are playing golf, pickle ball , climbing mountains, playing with grandkids, or performing simple every day tasks such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of a car, chair or bath tub without assistance. The quality of life in later years depends to large extend on being able to do the things we want to do without pain for as long as possible.

The question is; how much fitness is needed to stay independent and to support our functional mobility and physical independence?

We know that a lifestyle of too much sitting, reclining and lying down leads to loss of strength, loss of bone density, balance problems and can lead to falls and injury, dependency or death. Many older adults, because of their sedentary lifestyle, or insufficient physical activity, are functioning dangerously close to their maximum ability just performing their normal activities of daily living. When climbing stairs, getting in and out of a car, getting up from a chair requires maximal or near maximal effort, you are in need of immediate intervention.

Physical frailty is commonly associated with aging. Frailty leaves someone vulnerable to injury, illness, and disability however it is often preventable, and can be reduced if we pay more attention to our physical activity level and fitness as we age especially if evolving weaknesses could be detected and treated early on.

The Fullerton Functional Fitness Test, previously called Senior Fitness Test, is a battery of test items that covers the major components of fitness for older adults (lower-and upper-body strength, aerobic endurance, lower-and upper-body flexibility, agility and balance) needed to perform everyday activities in later life. This test can detect strengths and weaknesses so that appropriate intervention can begin. The Functional Fitness Test also provides the minimum test scores (called the Fitness Standard) that older adults should strive for at their age in order to be able to remain physically independent until late in life (90+).(Rikly and Jones 2012)

Falls are the #1 reason older adults lose their independence.

Fall risk screening and the Fullerton Functional Fitness Test when performed on a regular basis can detect evolving weaknesses and strength so that an appropriate exercise and physical activity program can be developed. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that one in every four older adults 65 years and older falls annually.

Are you shooting from the hip?

Any senior or older adult exercise program developed without these tests is like ‘shooting from the hip, you may hit or miss your target, or in this case you may miss your wellness/fitness goal.


When an older adult loses function to the point that he or she lives close to losing independence, the risk for falls and injuries increases. An exercise program that is specifically designed to target weaknesses and addresses impairments will provide best results. Planning to stay independent starts with knowing your current level of fitness and function. Proper assessment can be the difference between independence and dependency.

The Fullerton Functional Fitness Test previously called Senior Fitness Test was developed as part of the LifeSpan Wellness Program at the Center for Successful Aging at California State University at Fullerton, by Dr. Roberta Rikli and Dr. Jessie Jones. The test is sometimes known as the Fullerton Functional Test is a simple, easy-to-use battery of test items that assess the functional fitness of older adults ages 60 to 94 plus.

This test has been used by fitness professionals, health care professionals, physical therapists, and therapeutic recreation specialists who work with seniors and need to develop exercise intervention programs to improve functional health and fitness.

Are you fit enough to complete your bucket list???

The Functional Fitness Test or Senior Fitness Test can give you an answer.

Performing functional fitness test once or twice a year and when medical status changes can help prevent loss in function and delay or slow down declines in function over a lifetime.

We can conduct the Functional Fitness Test in the comfort and privacy in your home, additional assessments can be performed such as a Fall-Risk Screen and /or more detailed multi-sensory balance and mobility assessments. We use this information to develop and exercise prescription and design exercise programs that work.

Contact Jacqueline to schedule your in-home functional fitness test. Clients who receive virtual training can receive a modified virtual functional fitness test.


Senior Fitness Test Manual-2nd Edition Roberta E. Rikli and C. Jesse Jones

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