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Age-Group Differences in the Performance of Selected Tests of Physical Function and Association With Lower Extremity Strength

Francis, Peter, PhD1,2; Mc Cormack, William, PhD2; Lyons, Mark, PhD2; Jakeman, Philip, PhD2

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: January/March 2019 - Volume 42 - Issue 1 - p 1–8
doi: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000152
Research Reports

Background and Purpose: It is not known whether short functional performance tests used in aging research are appropriate for use in healthy older adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate age-group differences (sixth decade vs seventh decade) in selected functional performance tests and the association between lower extremity strength and functional performance.

Methods: One hundred fifty-nine (18.2% [n = 29] male) healthy older adults (mean (standard deviation) age 60.4 (5.3) years), adults were recruited from the University of Limerick Campus Community. Knee extensor (KE) peak torque (PT) was assessed from a maximal voluntary isometric contraction. Subsequently, participants completed 10-m maximal and habitual gait speed tests, 5 repetition and 30-second chair rise tests, and a 900-m gait speed test.

Results and Discussion: There was no difference in 10-m gait speed between those in the sixth and seventh decades (P > .05). Compared with the sixth decade, those in the seventh decade required an extra 39 seconds to complete 900 m, an extra 0.6 seconds to complete 5 chair rises and performed 2 fewer chair rises in a 30-second time period (P < .05). All tests had a weak association with KE strength (r = 0.226-0.360; P < .05), except for 900-m gait speed that had a moderate association (r = −0.537; P < .001). Our findings suggest that gait speed tests of 10 m or less cannot detect age-related difference in functional capacity when used in healthy older adults.

Conclusion: Extended physical performance tests should be used in aging research on healthy older adults.

1Musculoskeletal Health Research Group, School of Clinical and Applied Sciences, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, United Kingdom.

2Human Science Research Unit, Center for Intervention in Inflammation, Infection and Immunity, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Address Correspondence to: Peter Francis, PhD, Musculoskeletal Health Research Group, School of Clinical and Applied Sciences, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, LS1 3HE, United Kingdom (

Dr Francis performed this study for partial fulfillment of a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Limerick.

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest aside from grant funding stated later.

Robert Wellmon was the Decision Editor.

© 2019 Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy, APTA
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