The Timed Up and Go Test

The TUG Test

Senior couple holding hands and walking in park
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The Timed Up and Go test, also known as the TUG test, is a simple test used to measure basic functional mobility and safety with mobility. It's most often used as an outcome measurement in physical therapy clinics and can give you and your physical therapist a general idea of your ability to safely move around. The TUG test can also be used to measure your risk for falls and your ability to maintain balance and safe walking.

How is the TUG Administered?

The TUG is a simple test to administer: You only need a chair, a stopwatch, and a measuring tape to perform the test. Setup before the TUG involves situating your chair in an open space and then measuring three meters (9.8 feet) from the chair. A small piece of tape is used to mark the distance from your chair.

To start the TUG, you should be sitting in the chair. Your arms should be resting comfortably at your side or in your lab. They should not be on the chair's armrests. The test starts when a friend or family member says, “Go,” and the stopwatch is then started. The test measures the time it takes for you to rise from the chair, walk three meters, turn around, return to your chair, and sit down.

Upon sitting, the stopwatch is stopped, and the time is recorded. This is your score for the Timed Up and Go test.

If you normally use an assistive device such as a walker or a quad cane for walking, you should use it during the TUG. You should not receive any other physical assistance during the TUG. If your balance is limited, be sure to have someone with you who can make sure that you are safe while performing the TUG test. Never perform the test alone.

You should perform a practice run on the TUG test before being timed. Most often in physical therapy clinics, patients perform the test twice after their practice run, and the average of the two times is recorded.

Before performing the Timed Up and Go test on your own, you should check with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that you are performing the test properly and to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate to perform the TUG test.

Benefits of the TUG Test

There are many benefits to the TUG test. Theses include:

  • Minimal equipment is needed
  • Minimal training is needed to administer it
  • It can be done quickly
  • It can give you a good idea of your functional mobility

While the TUG test can give you an idea of your overall mobility, it has not been shown to be useful for predicting if you are at risk for falling.

What Do the Scores Mean?

Research has indicated that if you are able to perform the TUG in 14 seconds or less, you are someone who is not at risk of falling. Scores above 14 seconds indicate that you have a greater risk of falling.

If your score indicates that you are at risk of falling, you should contact your doctor or physical therapist to learn strategies to improve your balance and strength to help improve your safe functional mobility. Your PT can also prescribe specific balance exercises to help you stay in control while you are up and about.

Other strategies to help prevent falls are to fall-proof your home, and to ensure that you use an appropriate assistive device which is sized properly for you.

Why is a fall so dangerous? Falling can be a scary thing, and a fall can lead to serious injuries which can further limit your overall functionally mobility.

After working with your physical therapist, he may wish to retest the TUG at regular intervals to monitor your progress with your functional mobility. Getting a better score may serve as a positive motivator for you.

A Word from Verywell

If you have an injury or illness that prevents you from moving normally, you may wonder if there is a way to measure your function or improvements in your mobility. The Timed Up and Go test is a simple test to administer, and it can give you a basic idea of your functional mobility and safety while walking. Speak with your physical therapist and doctor to learn more about the TUG test and to give it a try.

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Article Sources

  • Physical Therapist's Clinical Companion. (2000). Springhouse, PA. Springhouse.
  • Shumway-Cook A, Brauer S, Woollacott M. Predicting the probability for falls in community-dwelling older adults using the Timed Up & Go Test. Phys Ther. 2000;80(9):896-903.