We’re all aware — or should be — that aerobic fitness lowers the risk of developing heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. It also decreases the risk of death and can potentially prolong life.
But there’s more to being in shape than heart rate and respiration. What about musculoskeletal fitness?
When it comes to muscular strength and flexibility and how they relate to life expectancy, there aren’t many studies to go on, so researchers from Brazil designed and conducted one.
The results were surprising. . .
The Sit-Rise Test
Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo, MD, PhD, specializes in exercise and sports medicine, but also works with heart patients at Clínica de Medicina do Exercício – Clinimex, in Rio de Janeiro.
He was struck by the fact that many older people can pass rudimentary aerobic fitness tests, yet they can’t do some basic tasks of daily living.
As he explained, “Many of them are able to bike or to run on a treadmill, but if you asked them, could you tie your shoes, it’s pretty difficult to do that. We realized not only aerobic fitness is important. You also need other things for your life: strength, flexibility, balance.”
So he used a test which he and other doctors originally developed to measure non-aerobic physical fitness in athletes. It’s called the sit-rise test.
Starting from a standing position, all you have to do is sit down on the floor and then get back to your feet with the minimum amount of support possible.
A perfect score is 10, but any time you need to use your hand, arm or knee, or you lose balance and wobble, either when sitting or standing, you lose points.
To test its relevance to life expectancy, the researchers enrolled 2,002 men and women aged 51 to 80. For the purposes of analysis, the test scores were divided into four groups: zero, 3.5 to 5.5, 6 to 7.5 and 8 to 10.
The researchers tested each person, scored his or her results, and followed up 6.3 years later. During that period 159 people died.
Strongly Linked to Mortality
The researchers found only two of the 159 deaths were in people who achieved a maximum score of ten. The majority of deaths occurred in those with low scores.
After taking age, gender and body mass index into account, participants who scored zero had a five to six times higher rate of death than did those in the top group.
A continuous trend for longer survival was seen as scores increased. Every one point increment in the score was related to a 21% reduction in mortality.
So.. .if you’re able to get up off the floor with no trouble, you can start planning what you’re going to do with the extra years you’ll live.
It’s a remarkable result.
Commenting on the finding, Dr. Araújo said, “…maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favorable influence on life expectancy.
“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 — their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so.”
If you’re interested in taking the test please check out the youtube video in the reference section below.