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Can You Do This? Simple Sitting Test May Help Predict Longevity

January 25, 2013 | 233,947 views
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By Dr. Mercola

Brazilian researchers have revealed a simple test that may help predict your longevity in the next six or so years: how well you can sit and rise from the floor.

The test is different from the long-used "chair test," which physicians sometimes use to gauge an elderly person's lower body strength by how well they can stand up from sitting in a chair.

The new test, a sitting-rising test (SRT), involves a score of 0-5 for each movement (sitting and rising), with a combined 10 being the highest score, awarded for those who can sit and rise from the floor without any assistance from their hands or knees.

Getting Up and Down Easily from the Floor is a Marker of Longevity

The SRT test, which can be used on middle-aged and elderly adults, is incredibly simple. Sit down on the floor, and then get up, using as little assistance from your hands, knees or other body parts as possible. For each body part that you use for support, you'll lose one point from the possible top score of 10.

"Application of a simple and safe assessment tool such as SRT, which is influenced by muscular strength and flexibility, in general health examinations could add relevant information regarding functional capabilities and outcomes in non-hospitalized adults," the researchers noted.

For instance, if you put one hand on the floor for support to sit down, then use a knee and a hand to help you get up, you'll "lose" three points for a combined score of 7. What do the numbers mean? They correlated strongly with participants' risk of death during the study period of just over six years. For each unit increase in SRT score, participants gained a 21 percent improvement in survival. Specifically:1

  • Those who scored 0-3 were 6.5 times more likely to die during the study than those who scored 8-10
  • Those who scored 3.5 to 5.5 were 3.8 times more likely to die
  • Those who scored 6 to 7.5 were 1.8 times more likely to die

While I wouldn't take the results of this study as "gospel" and become distressed if you are 30 years old and score a three, it does provide an interesting perspective on the connection between mobility and health and can provide encouragement for many to get back in shape. Even if you have been exercising like I have for coming up on five decades it still can be a challenge.

Personally I found the only way I can do it is to roll backward and use my momentum to help me get up. But I am working on it and hopefully will regain the flexibility/muscle strength to get up unassisted.

What is it That Makes the Sitting-Rising Test so Useful?

Quite simply, it's a measure of your fitness at the most basic level, testing not only muscular strength but also flexibility, balance and motor coordination. All of these attributes are essential for day-to-day living, and for maintaining your independence as you age.

And though the study didn't measure this directly, there's quite a good chance that those who are capable of easily sitting and standing without assistance are also those who engage in regular physical activity, which is helping to keep them agile and healthy.

Over 50 percent of American men, and 60 percent of American women, never engage in any vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week – and only 25 percent of women and 31 percent of men engage in vigorous exercise at least three times per week.2 This is despite a growing body of research clearly showing that "exercise deficiency" threatens your overall health and mental well-being, and shortens your lifespan.

In fact, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology,3 the best way to stay young is to simply start exercising, as it triggers mitochondrial biogenesis, a decline of which is common in aging. This reverses significant age-associated declines in mitochondrial density, and in effect, stops aging in its tracks. A 2011 review in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism4 also pointed out that exercise induces changes in mitochondrial enzyme content and activity, which can increase your cellular energy production and in so doing decrease your risk of chronic disease.

Increasing Mitochondrial Activity Via Regular Exercise May Help Keep You Young

Aside from impacting your skeletal muscle and fat tissue, researchers noted that exercise induces mitochondrial changes that may also benefit your liver, brain and kidneys. The mitochondria is the "power plant" of your cells, responsible for generating the energy that drives all metabolic functions.

Increasing mitochondrial activity is extremely important because free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of metabolism as well as exposures to chemicals, pollutants and other toxins, can overwhelm your body's defenses, leading to oxidative damage to cells and tissues that can destroy cellular proteins, lipids and DNA; this process often leads directly to the loss of mitochondrial function. In the long-term, irreversible damage in the mitochondria can occur, leading to:

  • Impaired ability to utilize carbohydrates and fat for energy
  • Insulin resistance
  • Lower threshold for physical exercise
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Accelerated aging
  • Cancer

Too Much Sitting is Especially Damaging

Even if you exercise regularly, sitting for long periods is also correlated with a shorter lifespan. Unfortunately, most people spend a large portion of each day in a seated position. It's hard to avoid these days, as computer work predominates, and most also spend many precious hours each week commuting to and from work, and then watching TV or surfing the Web during their leisure time.

Recent research estimates that if you cut back on the amount of time spent sitting to less than three hours a day, it could add two years to your life expectancy.5 On the other hand, according to a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise6 the more time you spend sitting down, the greater your risk of dying from all causes.

Arguably, those who spend the most time sitting and the least amount of time exercising are also those who are likely going to score lower on the sitting-rising test. If you haven't already, I recommend trying the sitting-rising test for yourself. If your score is lower than you'd like, it's a good signal that you should start incorporating some of the longevity tips discussed below.

A Foundational Exercise to Combat the Ravages of Too Much Sitting

One of the things I do to compensate for the time I spend sitting each day is to regularly do Foundation exercises developed by a brilliant chiropractor, Eric Goodman. These exercises are used by many professional and elite athletes, but more importantly can easily address the root cause of most low back pain, which is related to weakness and imbalance among your posterior chain of muscles. It is my belief that that these imbalances are primarily related to sitting.

Foundation Training is all about your core. Your core is anything that connects to your pelvis, whether above or below it, and this includes your hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles. Foundation Training teaches all those muscles to work together through integrated chains of movement, which is how you're structurally designed to move, as opposed to compartmentalized movements like crunches.

"The Founder" is one of the key exercises, which helps reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body by dispersing your weight through the posterior chains. As a result, your weight shifts back toward your heels and "untucks" your pelvis. By doing so, you lengthen your hip flexors, gaining length at the front of your body. The Founder is an excellent exercise that can help reverse the effects of frequent and prolonged sitting.

Simple Tips for Improving Your Longevity

One of the key things you can do to extend not only the sheer quantity of your years, but more importantly the quality, is to make a few simple changes to your lifestyle. One of the most important changes is optimizing your insulin function through diet and exercise. Regulating your insulin and leptin levels in this way have been found to be key factors in slowing down the aging process. Consuming sugar and grains will increase your insulin level, which is the equivalent of slamming your foot on your aging accelerator. There's simply no more potent way to accelerate aging than sticking to a diet full of sugar and grains.

Previous research has shown that you can extend your lifespan by reducing your caloric intake, but the problem is that most people do not understand how to properly cut calories. In order to remain healthy, you have to cut out calories from a specific source – namely, carbohydrates.

Protein intake should be about one gram per kilogram of lean body mass or less than half a gram per pound of lean body mass. Most people are currently consuming two to three times this much. The key to success with this anti-aging strategy is not necessarily to reduce your calories but replace the missing carbs and protein with healthy fats such as butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, the fat from pastured animals, or nuts. Here are the rest of my top "anti-aging" recommendations:

  • Proper Food Choices: For a comprehensive food guide, see my free nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods (organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, raw dairy, nuts, and so forth) that come from healthy, sustainable, local sources, such as small organic farms near your home. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw. Personally, I aim to eat about 75 percent of my food raw, including raw eggs.
  • Topping the list of foods to avoid is fructose. Eat plenty of natural, unprocessed salt with your food, as higher salt intake has been tied to longevity. I recommend Himalayan crystal salt. Also include liberal amounts of fermented foods in your daily diet, which are important for optimal immune function.

  • Comprehensive Exercise Program, including High-Intensity Exercise like Peak Fitness: Even if you're eating the best diet in the world, you still need to exercise effectively to reach your highest level of health. This means incorporating core-strengthening exercises, strength training, stretching and high-intensity activities into your rotation.
  • High-intensity interval training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. I've discussed the importance of Peak Fitness for your health on numerous occasions.

  • Stress Reduction and Positive Attitude: You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional components of your health. Your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease, from heart disease and depression to arthritis and cancer. Effective coping mechanisms and stress management are major factors in promoting longevity, in part because stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), meditation, yoga, prayer, social support and exercise are all ways to help you maintain emotional equilibrium.
  • The Right Amount of Sleep: Not only is sleep important in preventing illness, but recent research suggests it correlates with longevity as well. Not just enough sleep – but the right amount of sleep. In a 22-year twin study,7 adults who slept more than 8 hours per night, or less than 7, showed increased risk of death. Of course, the quality of your sleep is also important, not just the quantity.
  • Proper Sun Exposure to Optimize Vitamin D: We have long known that it is best to generate your own vitamin D from sun exposure. If at all possible, I strongly urge you to make sure you're getting out in the sun on a daily basis during the months that UVB rays are able to penetrate the atmosphere. To learn more about how to determine when you can effectively generate vitamin D from sun exposure, please see my previous article, Little Sunshine Mistakes that Can Give You Cancer Instead of Vitamin D.
  • During times when no UVB's are able to penetrate, and hence will not lead to vitamin D production, you can use a safe tanning bed or an oral vitamin D3 supplement. There is preliminary evidence suggesting that oral vitamin D may not provide the identical benefits, but it's still better than none at all.

  • Take High-Quality Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats: Animal-based omega-3 fats are a strong factor in helping people live longer. Many experts believe it's the predominant reason why the Japanese are the longest-lived race on the planet.
  • Get your antioxidants from foods: Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes. Many may also benefit by adding supplemental astaxanthin as a profoundly potent antioxidant.
  • Use coconut oil: Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and lower your cholesterol, among other things.
  • Avoid as Many Chemicals, Toxins, and Pollutants as Possible: This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • Avoid Prescription Drugs: Avoiding drugs and the conventional medical system is a good idea if you want to live a long and healthy life. According to data collected by the National Center for Health statistics, poisoning by prescription drugs has now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. The most commonly abused prescription painkillers (including OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Soma) now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
  • Making sure your doctor is properly accredited is also important when you seek medical care. According to a book about degree mills, there are well over 5,000 doctors operating with fake medical degrees in the U.S., and people have died as a result. Additionally, more than half of all PhD degrees in the U.S. are reportedly fakes.

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