Ability to sit and rise from floor a 'strong predictor' of mortality for middle-aged and older

Brazilian researchers devise simple but accurate test of musculo-skeletal fitness

Credit: Source: jinxmcc / Flickr

If you're over 50 and can sit down and rise from the floor without much difficulty, you have a good chance of living much longer. That's the conclusion of Brazilian researchers who in the late 1990s devised a test of musculo-skeletal fitness which "has proved remarkably predictive of all-cause mortality" in an ongoing study of more than 2,000 men and women ranging in age from 51 to 80. The study, published Thursday in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, was conducted by Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo and colleagues at the Clinimex-Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro. There's a video below from the researchers explaining and demonstrating the test, which is remarkably simple: Participants were instructed, "Without worrying about the speed of movement, try to sit and then to rise from the floor, using the minimum support that you believe is needed." Participants then were graded based on how many forms of support (hand/hands on floor, knees on floor, hand on knee, forearm on floor or knee) they used to both sit down on the floor and rise back up, with 5 points being the most awarded for each action and a point being deducted for each form of support employed. Researchers followed up with test subjects until Oct. 31, 2011, or the date of their death, a median follow-up period of 6.3 years. Here's what they found:

Over the study period 159 subjects died, a mortality rate of 7.9%. The majority of these deaths occurred in people with low test scores -- indeed, only two of the deaths were in subjects who gained a composite score of 10. Analysis found that survival in each of the four categories differed with high statistical significance. These differences persisted when results were controlled for age, gender and body mass index, suggesting that the sitting-rising test score is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality; indeed, subjects in the lower score range (0 to 3 points) had a five to six times higher risk of death than those in the reference group (8 to 10 points).

"If a middle-aged or older man or woman can sit and rise from the floor using just one hand -- or even better without the help of a hand -- they are not only in the higher quartile of musculo-skeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so," Dr. Araújo said in a statement. There basically are two reasons why that's true: 1) It's indicative of your overall health/fitness -- if you're not overweight, for example, you're less likely to need many (or any) forms of support -- and 2) being able to sit and rise easily means you have a good amount of flexibility, muscle strength and coordination, which translates into better balance and body control, so you're less likely to suffer an incapacitating or even fatal fall. Here's the video showing the test and explaining the methodology and results:

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