Skin elasticity test
This reveals the deterioration of the subcutaneous connective tissue, which is linked to wrinkle formation. The loss of skin elasticity occurs around the age of forty-five, although variability in the range of plus or minus 10% is not unusual. In order to perform this test, you pinch the skin on the back of your hand, between your thumb and index finger, and count how long it takes for the fold to disappear. It should take:
– Less than 5 seconds for a functional age between 45 and 50 years old;
– Between 10 and 15 around 60 years old;
– Between 35 and 60 seconds beyond 70 years old.
The ruler catching test
This test assesses your reaction time to an external stimulus. It is essential, as this factor can determine your capacity for ‘survival’ in case of an aggression or accident, and we know that it is affected by age. In order to perform it, ask someone to hold a flat, 50 cm graduated wood ruler vertically, by its upper extremity. Place your thumb and index finger, 8 to 10 cm apart, at equal distance from the 50 cm mark, at the bottom of the ruler. Ask the person holding the ruler to let go of it without warning you, and attempt to grab the ruler as soon as they have done so. Your score is determined by the mark at which you were able to grab the ruler. Perform the test three times and determine the average of the three scores: it should be around 28-30 at 20 years old and reach about 15 at 60 years old. A 20 year-old will therefore take 20 cm to react whereas a 60 year-old will need 35!
The static balance test
This test is useful to examine the condition of the central and peripheral nervous system. This test must be performed barefoot or with flat-heeled slippers, on your left leg if you are right-handed and your right leg if you are left-handed. On a hard surface (no carpets or rugs), join both feet, close your eyes and lift one foot about 15 centimeters off the ground, bending your knee 45 degrees. Then attempt to balance on the other foot, without moving it and while keeping your eyes closed. Ask someone to record how long you are able to stay in this position. Perform the test three times and calculate the average.
For someone 20-25 years old, you should be able to stay balanced for more than thirty seconds. At forty years old, the average duration should only be fifteen seconds, between 65 and 70, it is reduced to around five seconds.
Measurement of vital capacity (VC)
Today, this is very easy to achieve, thanks to spirometers –or peak flow meters–, which can be found in specialized shops or medical centers. It is performed by measuring the amount of air which is expelled after having breathed deeply and will assess both the proper function of the respiratory system (muscles, bronchi, lung tissue) and that of the central nervous system’s control. Furthermore, and this is absolutely essential, this test is not affected by physical training.
Until 30 years of age, VC should reach five liters. At 40 years old, it should be between four and five liters. It is only, on average, between three and four liters at 50 years old, three liters at 60 and below three liters at 70 and beyond.
The Ruffier test
This test assesses cardiovascular adaptation to effort. However, it has the drawback of being both affected by physical training and representing a (slight) risk for elderly or fragile individuals, for whom the required intensity will be lowered. It is therefore strongly recommended that this test be performed in a clinical setting.
1/ Measure your pulse at rest for 15 seconds and write it down (P0).
2/ Then perform 30full squats in 45 to 60 seconds.
3/ Write down your pulse (measured for 15 seconds) as soon as you have finished the exercise (P1).
4/ Measure your pulse once more, one minute after having finished the exercise (P2).
5/ Multiply the sum of the three numbers, P0+P1+P2, by 4. The Ruffier index is produced by the formula:
(P0 + P1 + P2)x4– 200/ 10
It should be inferior to 3 for subjects in very good physical condition, between 5 and 10 for those in good physical condition, between 10 and 15 for those in average physical condition. Furthermore, your pulse at the end of the exercise should not be above 150 beats/minute and after one minute you should have recovered more than 70% of the way to your resting heart rate.
Those with an index higher than 15 should be monitored: they may be fatigued and/or sedentary. For elderly individuals, or those in poor physical condition, 20 squats in 45 to 60 seconds will suffice. The same protocol should be kept for later measurements.