The sit/rise test was revealed in 2013 by Brazilian doctors convinced that it gives a good insight into how long you will live. It seems that whole body flexibility, mobility, balance and coordination do give some indication of a healthy body and also an indication of your mortality. I found it a little difficult to get my head around the figures arising from the test, e.g. a score of x means you’re twice as likely to die in y years left me a little confused.
However, when I started to think about movement, mobility etc. it’s easier to look at it from a more person oriented point of view. Think about your children and how easily they move from floor to standing and back, they’re going to be a perfect 10 on this test, and you would expect them to live long – they’re kids, they have their whole life ahead of them, right? Now picture an elderly parent, grandparent or someone you know who moves really poorly – they’re stooped, they have a walker or a stick or they’ve developed the old person shuffle because their balance and coordination are poor, you look at someone like that and think they’re old, they’re lacking mobility and you’re not exactly expecting them to die tomorrow, but subconsciously you put them in the old, frail and infirm bracket and therefore more likely to die than the young child you’ve observed.
Now picture that elderly parent, grandparent etc. being able to do the sit to stand test, their mobility is good, they’re not stooped and their balance and coordination are still good. When you see someone who tells you their age but they’re vital, active and their alignment is still vertical, your perception of their chances of dying shifts too. It’s a shock when someone like that dies, as opposed to the person of similar age who looks like they’re on death’s door. I am very aware that how things look isn’t how things normally are, and there can be a whole heap of other issues that a person might be about to die from no matter how bendy they are, but I think in this case how someone moves really does give the impression of vitality and youthfulness.
To perform the sit-rise test:
Stand barefoot, then cross one leg in front of the other and lower yourself gradually to the floor.
The aim is to do this without letting any part of your body, other than your bottom, touch the floor. So no hands, or knees.
Then, from that cross-legged seated position, try to get up again. Again, no hands. And definitely no asking someone else to haul you up.
In the original experiment, 2,000 people aged between 51 and 80 were monitored.
They were assessed, then marked according to a simple formula: everyone starts with ten points, then a point is subtracted each time you have to touch the floor with a hand, arm or knee. A wobble sees half a point deduced.
Volunteers were followed for six years and their health monitored.
People who scored fewer than eight points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher.
Those who scored three or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period compared with those who scored more than eight points.
‘It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength and co-ordination also have a favourable influence on life expectancy,’ said Professor Claudio Gil Soares de Araujo, one of the study’s authors.
If you do score a three or lower, it doesn’t mean you have one foot in the grave. Just keep practising the technique.
It could add years to your life by strengthening your muscles and improving your balance.
I do think the sit/rise test has value, but I also think being able to get up off the floor with as little support as possible is important NO MATTER how you do it. The cross-legged position isn’t practical for someone with knee/hip issues/replacements, nor is it particularly functional in the sense that it is not, in my opinion, necessarily how we would normally rise or sink to the floor – depending on where you’re sitting and on what surface will necessitate the best way of getting on and off that surface. Doing so with little support, grace and fluidity, however is still a good sign of your mobility, flexibility and balance.
The videos below show the test in its original form and a second version that’s a little more functional.