With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Friday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in November 2018.
Sit down on the floor.
Now, can you rise to a standing position without using your hands?
I’m sorry to break it to you, but your chance of dying is substantially higher compared to someone who can.
At least that’s what a series of studies done by Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araujo seem to suggest.
How Sitting Down and Standing Up Can Predict Your Mortality
As people get older, balance, flexibility, and strength all decrease. Picking things up off the floor, getting out of bed, getting off the toilet, or picking yourself up after you fall down become increasingly more difficult. Without any intervention, a person can physically atrophy to the point where they can no longer move about. As the titular character in Tuesdays with Morrie put it: “When you’re in bed, you’re dead.”
According to Araujo, there’s really something to that sentiment, particularly if you’re getting on in years.
He and his colleagues developed a simple evaluation of balance, flexibility, and strength he calls the Sitting-Rising Test, or SRT. You start from a standing position, and without leaning on anything, you lower yourself to the floor, and then rise back up again.
You start with a score of 10. You subtract points for the following:
- Hand used for support: -1 point
- Knee used for support: -1 point
- Forearm used for support: -1 point
- One hand on knee or thigh: -1 point
- Side of the leg used for support: -1 point
So for example, if as you stand up you put your right hand and then right knee on the floor for support, that would be -2 points. If when sitting back down, you put your left hand on your left knee and your right hand on the floor before your butt hits the ground, that would be minus another 2 points. Your total score for the Sitting-Rising Test would be 6 (10-4=6).
Araujo gave the SRT to over 2,000 patients between the ages of 51 and 80. He and his colleagues found that individuals who scored fewer than 8 points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher; those who scored 3 or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period compared with those who scored more than 8 points. Overall, each point increase in the SRT score was associated with a 21% decrease in mortality from all causes. Wowzer!
Araujo’s conclusion from this research is that while it’s well known that aerobic health is crucial for longevity, muscular strength and flexibility are just as important in staving off death in old age. You’ve got to always keep moving — in all ways! So if you’re older, put a premium on getting strong and staying agile. If you’re still young(ish), make the investment into your “fitness 401(k)” by taking part in regular strength training and doing dynamic stretches and movement exercises. Your 60-year-old self will thank you.
How to Get Up Off the Floor With Minimal Support
Sitting down and standing up from the floor without leaning on anything or using your hands/knees for support is actually a little tricky. Besides strength and agility, it requires a bit of skill, and like any skill, it takes practice.
Below, Danny Clark, Performance Director at MovNat, walks us through a few ways you can sit and stand while using a minimal number of your appendages for support. I actually work these into my day for fun. Great way to move the body when you need a break from sitting statically in a chair all day.
The methods are listed by increasing difficulty for men, who tend to have more tightness/stiffness. Start with the easier ones and work your way up until you can do them all; if there’s one that gives you problems, work at it until you can do it proficiently.
The first two use some appendages for support, while the latter three show progressively more challenging ways to get off the ground without using either your hands or your knees. Doing one of those would get you a perfect 10/10 on the SRT. And bode well for your mortality.
1) Side Bent Sit Get Up
2) Figure Four Get Up
3) Cross Squat Get Up
4) Squat Get Up
5) Single Leg Squat Get Up