Sit and stand

By John Pastor • Published: April 26th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

People who can get up from the floor with a hand tied behind their backs may have a leg up on longevity.

It may sound like a parlor trick, but health researchers in Brazil followed men and women aged 51 to 80 to see whether a simple sit-and-rise test could serve as a predictor of their long-term health.

While cardiovascular fitness is useful for predicting long-term health, additional ways to determine the health trajectory of older adults could be useful, especially because of the growing numbers of people around the world who are moving through middle age and into their senior years.

A possible prognostic is a sit-and-rise test, in which participants are simply asked to sit down on the floor, then to stand up using as little support as possible.

The activity is an indicator of strength, balance and flexibility … physical commodities that fall in short supply as we age.

Researchers gave the test to more than 2,000 people. If volunteers accomplished the task without using any support, they received 10 points … five for sitting and five for standing.

But a point was taken away for each support they used to sit and stand … for example, a hand, two hands, a knee, and so on.

When researchers circled back after six years to see how the patients fared, they discovered each additional support the volunteers used during the test was associated with a lower chance of survival.

It could be that people who have a low score are more likely to be at risk for falls, which is a significant cause of disability and death in older people.

The researchers say they did not take into account accidents or illnesses that might have beset the patients, and that the sit-and-rise test is far from the final word for gauging longevity.

But it may provide a quick glimpse at an important health metric. And that is a useful trick indeed.