The Functional Reach Test and Other Ways to Assess Your Risk of Falling

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. January 02, 2017

The Functional Reach Test and Other Ways to Assess Your Risk of Falling

The July, 2016 issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter[1] included an article called “Preventing Falls: A Multipronged Approach.”

As we have noted in out blogs here at Safety In Place, preventing falls starts with determining your risk of falling. This is especially important if you have already fallen or if you feel unsteady on your feet. There are exams that your doctor can give to assess your overall fall risk.

Functional Reach Test

One quick screening test cited in the Mayo Clinic Health Letter is the functional reach test:

“In a functional reach test, you stand alongside a wall and extend your arm with your hand in a fist. Lean forward as far as possible without taking a step or losing your balance. If the distance your fist moves forward is less than 6 inches, it may indicate an increased risk of falls.”

STEADI Functional Assessments

The functional reach test is just one of several exams that your doctor may give you to determine your risk of falling. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention developed a program called STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries), which offers summary sheets and videos of other functional assessments that may be used by your health care provider:

Preventing Falls: Assess & Modify

Remember that falling may be due to many factors related to your physical and mental condition, medications, and home environment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about ways to assess your risk of falling. Check back here at Safety In Place to learn about ways to modify your home environment to help reduce your risk of falling.



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Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.


Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.