Something kept rumbling around in my mind as I exercised in the morning. I’m not sure if I heard about it on a podcast or read it in a newspaper, but it was a test for longevity that involved the ability to get up off the floor without using your hands.
So one day, I tried it. My exercise session ended, and there I was, sitting crossed legged on the floor. The instruction from my head to my body — Get up! — accomplished nothing. I suddenly remembered my son as a toddler trying to jump. Feet firmly planted on the ground, he threw his arms up in the air…as his feet remained firmly planted on the ground. It was adorable. Not so much for me with my tush similarly planted.
Ultimately, I figured out that if I swiveled both feet to one side, I could get up on my knees and then up off the ground without using my hands! My happiness was short lived because when I googled the test online, I learned that coming to my knees subtracted a point from what would be a perfect score of ten. Darn!
So, let me tell you how to do the test correctly. Then I am going to debunk it, only to rebunk it as I give you a game plan for longevity. And of course, I’m going to tell you about the day I lied to my Apple Watch.
Here’s the test:
You start out standing with your arms at your sides and your feet crossed at the ankles. Then you sit yourself down on the floor, and with ankles still crossed, you stand yourself back up without using your hands or any part of your body except for your legs and core.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, if you can sit and stand with no assistance, you get a score of ten. Subtract one point each if you do any of these things, remembering that a score of eight or higher is the goal:
• Use your hand
• Use your knee
• Use your forearm
• Use one hand on the knee or thigh
• Use the side of your leg
• Lose your balance at any time
I tried the test and was immediately unsuccessful. In crossing my feet at the ankles, I lost my balance. As I tried to sit in my wobbly state, I took a hard fall to the floor instead. My Apple Watch vibrated right away! It thought I had fallen! It gave me two options to click: I have fallen but I am ok, and I have not fallen. Evidently, if I don’t respond, or if I have been immobile for one minute, it will automatically call emergency services.
That’s when I did it. I lied to my Apple Watch. I said I had not fallen. The fall was embarrassing enough! I did not want it to be part of my permanent record!
But now that I know I am a flunky, how worried should I be?
This is the science behind the test:
In 2012, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology presented a study of 2002 adults ages 51-80. Participants were asked to do the sitting-rising test (SRT) and scores were recorded. A follow up took place 6.3 years later. There were 159 deaths. When adjusted for age, sex, and body mass index, it was found that lower SRT scores were associated with higher mortality.
Here is the debunking and rebunking:
The Washington Post debunks the test by reminding us that there are a lot more variables to consider. As examples, a person with bad knees would fail as would one with inner ear/balance problems. Beyond this, the test only measures one tiny aspect of wellness.
The Washington Post goes on to mention other tests that link physical capabilities to enhanced longevity — a walking speed test, a pushup test, a handgrip test. But again, all of these studies have the same two drawbacks.
As I read about these tests, I started to chuckle. It reminded me of a class I took in college — science for the elementary school teacher — where I had to study the effects of water pollution on the growth of mung beans. My then-husband told me to skip doing the test and just write the report. Of course, mung beans would grow better in clean water! It was a no brainer. Me being me, I did the full experiment only to learn what we knew before we started.
Learning from that experience, I go directly to the bottom line today: The more physically fit you are, the greater your chance of being healthier and living longer. It makes no difference if we measure fitness in walking speed, pushup capabilities, handgrip strength, or the sitting-rising test. It’s a no brainer.
Though I still feel embarrassed about the hard fall I took while doing the test, I am happy to read The Washington Post’s wise words on the topic: “Once you’ve peeled yourself off the ground following the sit-rise test, use your newfound sense of defeat [as a motivator] to get stronger and improve your fitness.”
In my own case, I already do a lot to remain fit, but balance is something I need to work on. I can lie to my Apple Watch all I want, but I can’t lie to myself.
Here’s another bottom line/no brainer:
There will always be studies linking physical capabilities and longevity. They may all be bogus in some ways, and yet, all are meaningful. They highlight areas of our physical wellbeing that we need to address in order to attain the ultimate goal — no, not standing up from a sitting position — but a healthier and longer life.