Purpose: Assessment of physical fitness is important in order to set goals, appropriately prescribe exercise, and monitor change over time. This study aimed to determine the utility of a standardized physical fitness assessment for use in cancer-specific, community-based exercise programs.
Methods: Tests anticipated to be feasible and suitable for a community setting and a wide range of ages and physical function were chosen to measure body composition, aerobic fitness, strength, flexibility, and balance. Cancer Exercise Trainers/Specialists at cancer-specific, community-based exercise programs assessed new clients (n = 60) at enrollment, designed individualized exercise programs, and then performed a re-assessment 3-6 months later (n = 34).
Results: Resting heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, handgrip strength, chair stands, sit-and-reach, back scratch, single-leg standing, and timed up-and-go tests were considered suitable and feasible tests/measures, as they were performed in most (≥88 %) participants. The ability to capture change was also noted for resting blood pressure (-7/-5 mmHg, p = 0.02), chair stands (+4, p < 0.01), handgrip strength (+2 kg, p < 0.01), and sit-and-reach (+3 cm, p = 0.03). While the submaximal treadmill test captured a meaningful improvement in aerobic fitness (+62 s, p = 0.17), it was not completed in 33 % of participants. Change in mobility, using the timed up-and-go was nominal and was not performed in 27 %.
Conclusion: Submaximal treadmill testing, handgrip dynamometry, chair stands, and sit-and-reach tests were feasible, suitable, and provided meaningful physical fitness information in a cancer-specific, community-based, exercise program setting. However, a shorter treadmill protocol and more sensitive balance and upper body flexibility tests should be investigated.