At yoga class last Monday, our teacher showed us a deceptively simple move she calls ” just stand up”. You sit cross legged on the floor (or a yoga block) and then get up to a standing position without using your arms. Or (as in my case), you don’t.
I found this task both practically and conceptually impossible while sitting on the floor. Sitting on one yoga block, I couldn’t do it cross legged ( although I could imagine doing it, and actually did it with legs wide apart). Once I sat cross legged on two yoga blocks I was able to stand up, albeit ungracefully.
Now I find that some researchers consider this yoga party trick to be a good predictor of all cause mortality– this is, how long we are likely to live.
Guess I’d better get my affairs in order now.
The test in question is called the sit rise test. Here’s a description from a USA Today article:
The goal is to get down and back up from a sitting position with minimal support. It can be used in all age groups, and results are based on a scale of one to 10. Score three or less and your risk of dying is five times greater over the next five years.It may look and sound easy, but here’s how it’s done.
You cross your feet, and go into a seated position. That’s five points. Coming back up is another 5. But you can lose points really fast.You lose a point for each hand, arm or knee you need for support. Take off a half-point when you lose your balance at any time, either on the way down or coming back up.Total them all for your final score.
If you have bad knees or hips, don’t try this alone.
Researchers in Brazil did this test on 2002 people aged 51–80. They claim that lower sit-rise test scores were associated with higher mortality risk. Predictably, the popular press picked up on this, splashing the bad news across the headlines with glee. The Daily Mail delivered the message in most dramatic fashion.
They get points for the all-caps use of the word ‘death’, but I’m not buying it. Why not? A few reasons.
When I went to the source– the study itself-– I saw tables that show increased mortality risks for groups with lower sit-rise scores. Groups that had to use hands or knees a lot to aid sitting down and/or standing up had an average risk 5 times higher than the group that did this task with little aid by hands or knees. Does this really mean that not being able to do this means you’re 5 times more likely to die than the get-up-easily group? NO. When you look at the table with the results, we also see that the average age of the low scorers is 71, whereas the average age of the high scorers is 59. You can see this same info illustrated in this very interesting graph:
What this data seems to show is that younger age groups had higher sit-rise test scores. What is more interesting to me (and I think should be to all of us) is the trend we see in the red bar (low scorers). From ages 51–60, low scorers are a small part of the group. It would be interesting to try this on younger people too– I bet there will be a small percentage of low scorers there, too, for a bunch of reasons.
At 61–65, the percentage of low scorers increases but is still small. However, starting at 66–70, the percentage doubles. And for each age group after that we see big increases in the low score groups. This tells me that at certain age thresholds, mobility really decreases. This is a call to action– people in those groups can use some programs to help maintain their flexibility, balance, agility, leg strength, etc. But this is no news. And it’s not a sign (or a new sign) that definitely shows death risk– it just shows that aging brings with it some decreases in function that can and should be addressed through exercise programs and aids in homes and public places to make them safer for older people.
Other limiters: people with knee problems and arthritis won’t score well on this test regardless of age. People with shorter legs tend to score better (except for me, apparently). Also this test was done on a small and mostly white population in a culture where sitting in the floor isn’t commonly done. It’s not clear how it would play out on other populations and in cultures where movement patterns differ. In addition, the test couldn’t be applied to people with a host of varied disabilities, so it doesn’t seem generalizable.
Sam posted about this test a while ago here. Since she does Aikido, she’s pretty good at rolling around on the floor and getting up without using arms or knees. In yoga, we work on a variety of balance and flexibility and strength skills. I like them– for me, they are fun personal challenges. But if my body resists some of them, instead of shopping online for funeral urns, maybe I’ll work on some other strength and flexibility moves instead.
For instance: a kayak party trick I’d like to master is being able to stand up in your boat without immediately tipping over. In my women’s kayak classes (see my post about it here) they showed us how to do this, and some people did it ( with a person stabilizing their boat, and some on their own). I felt way too awkward even to try. But now I’m thinking that getting more comfortable with moving and lifting and balancing my body under unusual conditions is probably very good for it and me. So I’m going to keep my eyes open for interesting new body balance and strength challenges.
Just out of curiosity, can you do the sit rise thing? What do you think about this test? Do you have any physical party tricks you can or want to do? I’d love to hear from you.