By Lisa Collier Cool
Don’t be surprised if your doctor asks you to sit on the floor at your next checkup. A new study says testing a person’s ability to sit down and then rise from the floor could provide useful insight into their overall health and longevity.
Brazilian researchers discovered an interesting link between a person’s ability to sit and rise from the floor and the risk of being 6.5 times more likely to die in the next six years. The study, published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, included a simple test in which more than 2,000 people ages 51 to 80 attempted to sit down on the floor and then stand back up using as little support as possible.
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Floors are Replacing ChairsChairs used to be a helpful tool to measure a person’s strength and lower body fitness. Having a person stand up from a seated position helped doctors assess a person's overall frailty and also if he or she is likely to fall (and thereby at an increased risk of fracture). It also measured a person’s lower-body strength and agility.
But this new test has some real life applications.
Instead of simply gauging a person’s ability to get up off the couch, the sitting test helps identify risks associated with picking up vital items—such as medicine or eyeglasses—that may drop on the floor. It also can identify those at risk of spending hours (or longer) on the floor after a fall—unable to get up or call for help.
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Aiming for a Perfect ScoreThe test used by the researchers required people to sit on the floor from a standing position and then return to a standing position. Speed wasn’t a factor in the scoring, but support was.
The more support a person required—including bracing with a hand or knee or both—the lower the score for each action. A perfect score of five for each action (sitting and standing) was the goal. Points and half points were deducted for things like touching a hand or knee on the ground or pushing off with a hand on one knee to stand up. Looking wobbly on the way up or down cost participants half a point.
More than half the participants ages 76 to 80 failed the tests, scoring 0 to 3. Not surprising around 70 percent of those under 60 earned a near perfect or perfect score of 8, 9, or 10.
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Scores and Life ExpectancyPeople who scored 0 to 3 were 6.5 times more likely to die during the course of the 6.3 year study, compared to people who scored from 8 to 10. Those with scores of 3.5 to 5.5 were 3.8 times more likely to die as the high scorers—and those who scored in the 6 to 7.4 range were 1.8 times more likely to die than those with the highest scores.
During the course of the study 159 of the 2,000 volunteers died, with the majority of the deaths coming from the group that had the most trouble getting up and down.
“Just two subjects that scored 10 died in the follow-up of about six years,” said Claudio Gil Soares de Araújo, a professor at Gama Filho University in Rio de Janeiro who worked on the study. If someone between the ages of 51 and 80 scores 10, “the chances of being alive in the next six years are quite good,” he said.
“A 1-point increment in the [sitting-rising] score was related to a 21 percent reduction in mortality," reported the investigators who noted this is the first study to demonstrate the prognostic value of the sitting-rising test,” said Araújo.
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