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Health-related fitness tests for public health monitoring

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Thus the significance of physical activity in the promotion of public health is well accepted. However, physical fitness has not yet gained its own stature together with physical activity despite of the increasing research indicating that fitness is a reliable indicator of person’s health status.

At best population assessments of fitness can be used to identify those with increased health risks to promote targeted physical activity interventions. Fitness measures also provide objective data on effects of different types of physical activity patterns regardless of the method (objective, subjective) of physical activity assessment. Thus, fitness measurements offer an important research means to better understand the interrelationships between physical activity, fitness and health (Figure 1).

The concept of health-related fitness was introduced as a part of a theoretical model (Figure 1) on “Physical activity, fitness, and health (Bouchard and Shephard 1994). According to this model, habitual physical activity can influence the physical fitness level, which in turn can modify the level of physical activity.

The model also specifies that health-related fitness is related to health in a reciprocal manner. The components of health-related fitness are motor, muscular/musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition and metabolism.

UKK-institute has studied and developed over 20 tests of health-related fitness based on six series of scientific investigations. Issues of safety and feasibility, repeatability or criterion validity, as well as validity for current and future health status have been emphasized in these studies.

Furthermore a “Pathway of health-related fitness testing for adult populations” was developed to provide operational fitness testing model including physical activity counseling for professionals working in health care and field of sport for all.

The targets and content of this practical approach to population assessment has been very similar to the more recent descriptions introduced by the experts of American College of Sports Medicine (2010):

  • educating participants about their present health-related fitness status relative to health standards and age- and sex-matched norms
  • providing data that are helpful in development of exercise prescription to address all fitness components
  • collecting baseline and follow-up data that allow evaluations of progress by exercise program participants
  • motivating participants by establishing reasonable and attainable fitness goals
  • stratifying cardiovascular risk.

The “pathway of health-related fitness testing” as a tool for individual physical activity counseling is described in the test manual of “Fitness for Health: The ALPHA-FIT Test Battery for Adults Aged 18–69″.

The test manual also introduces the Physical Activity Pie, containing the current recommendations for health-enhancing physical activity for adults, as an additional tool for physical activity counseling.

Health-related fitness tests and test batteries developed by the UKK Institute 1991–2013 

  • UKK Walk Test (Laukkanen 1993)
  • Health-related fitness tests battery for middle aged adults (Suni 1999)
  • Health-related fitness tests for high-functioining older adults (Husu 2008)
  • Motor ability test battery for adults (Rinne 2010)
  • Fitness for Health: The ALPHA-FIT Test Battery for Adults Aged 18–69.


Jaana Suni, Research and Development Manager 


Last updated: 2.11.2020

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