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How to Stay Physically Fit and Independent as an Older Adult

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Dream It.

Seniors are all around us, and they are the backbone to our families and keeping them healthy has countless benefits. The Senior Fitness test is one way to maintain and/or improve their independence by providing valuable information about their physical ability to do everyday activities.

Below you have more information about the Senior Fitness Test, what it is, how to use it and a free 3-day exercise program which will improve your senior fitness level.

Learn It.

Why is it important that seniors remain physically fit?

I was once told by a gym owner and coach, "People who go to the gym aren't training for anything and don't need to improve performance."

I believe they were and are wrong. People go the gym to improve their health and increase quality of life. The ability to perform activities of daily living is taken for granted, but is a primary determinant of independence.

Physical independence is defined as having the physical capacity to perform common everyday activities on one's own without additional assistance. Some examples include housework chores, lifting and carrying objects, walking up and down steps, walking far enough to do errands like shopping.

With many baby boomers entering retirement it is especially important economically to keep this population healthy. In such way we reduce the economical strain on our financial system since many depend on public aid for economic assistance. It is important to take care of our seniors for many reasons.

What is the senior fitness test?

The senior fitness test is a battery of 6 tests to determine the functional physical capacity of senior men and women. The Senior Fitness Test measures multiple physical attributes such as strength, aerobic endurance, flexibility, and agility or dynamic balance. A benefit of the SFT is that is possible to assess gradual changes over time across different levels of physical abilities.

"Functional fitness is having the physiologic capacity to perform normal everyday activities safely and independently without undue fatigue. ” Rickli, R. E. & Jones, C. J.

The Senior Fitness Test consists of the following exercises:

Who is the senior fitness test for?

The Senior Fitness Test is for relatively healthy men and women aged 60-94.

People who may need a medical professional present during the test have the following contraindications:

  • Exercise determined as not safe by doctor or medical professional

  • Severe heart conditions

  • Joint pain

  • Chest pain

  • Vertigo

  • Angina

  • Uncontrolled blood pressure of 160/100

What to do with the test results?

Developed in the USA by Rikli and Jones in 2001 the Senior Fitness Test is an easy-to-use exercise battery to determine senior independence. The normative data comes from averages of 7,183 older adults. The test reveals the individual's strengths and weaknesses.

The fitness specialist can create a workout program for the senior to help them improve or maintain their physical fitness levels. Repeat tests help the specialist adapt the program based on results. The test results provide guidance and motivation to the seniors to maintain consistent with their exercise program. It also provides the fitness specialist the opportunity to educate the seniors on their own health.

Benefits of Senior Fitness Test

  1. Help create an effective exercise program

  2. Determine strengths and weaknesses

  3. Adapt exercise program over time

  4. Provide educational opportunities on physical wellbeing

  5. Guide the senior to improve independence

  6. Motivate seniors to participate in different exercise activities

  7. Balance strength, aerobic fitness, flexibility and agility

What are the best exercise programs for seniors?

The "best" exercise programs for seniors are the same for everyone else, something they enjoy doing. If they don't enjoy the exercise activity then choose what they dislike the least. Use the test results from the senior fitness test to determine what they might want to spend more time doing to maintain and improve their functional physical capacity.

There are many different activities to improve fitness in seniors. Below are some ideas of activities and tools their could use.

i. Strength

1) Pilates

2) Weight training

3) Resistance band training

ii. Aerobic fitness

1) Walking

2) Dancing

3) Water aerobics

4) Swimming

5) Cycling

iii. Agility

1) Cone drills

2) Ladder drills

iv. Flexibility

1) Yoga

2) Pilates

3) Static stretching

4) Mobility exercises

Do It.


The key factor of SFT is to maintain fitness capacity of older adults to perform daily activities. It is an easy way to motivate and personalize exercise programs for older adults. Health professionals can use this to retain their clients and track their progress over time with ease. Older adults can safely test their physical abilities and gain some insight into their strength and opportunities to improve.

Here is a 3 day program which is of light-moderate intensity. It has a combination of free-weight and machine exercises for strength in addition to cardio and agility work.

Feel free to comment below and leave any questions you might have about senior fitness. If you know someone who could benefit from an exercise program like this make sure to share it with them.

Dream it. Learn it. Do it.

Senior Fitness Exercise Program 1 3Day 2023
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