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A simple standing test can gauge your overall health, fitness

When we go to our annual physical, it’s always a relief to get a clean bill of health. However, it’s important to check in with ourselves on a regular basis, too. One way to do that? The “sit-to-stand” test.

This test is an effective way to gauge your overall health and longevity. But what is it, exactly, and what can it really predict? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the sit-to-stand test?

The sit-and-rise-from-the-floor test asks you to sit down criss-cross style, without using your arms, hands, knees or the sides of your legs, and then rise back up in the same way.

This measure was created to predict someone’s physical abilities. A relationship was also found between the capability to complete this measure and your lifespan, explains Jared Burch, from SOAR Physical Therapy in New Jersey. We now know that using this test can help identify diminishing levels of fitness and physical function as we age.

What can this test tell us?

While some tests directly identify the health of your heart through aerobic function and its relationship to lifespan, this test uniquely measures your lower body muscle strength, flexibility, balance and coordination/postural stability, Burch states. It requires your joints to move through a relatively large range of motion while the muscles of your lower body and trunk support and control your body weight.

And research confirms it. The most popular study on this topic was from the European Journal of Cardiology in 2014. “The same authors also came out with information for more age groups indicating males under 40 and females under 50 should be scoring 9 or higher to stay out of the ‘unfavorable’ groups,” Burch says.

How to do the test

A quick Google search will let you know that there are a few versions of the sit-to-stand test, but the most popular is the sitting-and-rising test or the sit-and-rise test, where you start sitting with your legs crossed on the ground and you try to get up and sit back down without using another body part. There are technically two parts to the test: standing up and sitting back down.

Physical therapist Laura Kummerle explains that for each part of the test, you get five points. So you get five points on the way up and five points on the way down. You deduct a point every time you touch anything except your feet and hips to the ground. So each time you use a hand, knee, thigh, elbow or forearm, you deduct one point. A perfect score is 10, so the higher the score, the better.

What your score means

Interpreting your score can help you better understand your overall health, but if you don’t get a great score when you try it, try not to worry too much — you can always have a chat with your doctor about your overall health, and try a few workouts to boost strength and flexibility.

This test used data from people ages 51 to 80, and it showed that a score of less than eight was associated with a death rate two to five times higher over a six-year period in men and women.

Workouts for strength and flexibility

If your score could use improvement, Kummerle recommends the following workouts:

1. A good lower body strength program can help improve your performance for the test.

2. Including fundamental movement patterns like squats, lunges, hip hinges and carries can be a good start to building strength, but if you’re not quite ready for those things, you can also build strength using some of the machines in the gym.

3. Including movements that have forward and backward movements, side-to-side motions and rotational movements can be helpful to work your body in different ways.

4. Adding tempo changes, slowing things down and speeding things up can help to work power and agility.

5. Flexibility can be included in your workout as prep work, accessory exercises, or by utilizing the full range of motion of the exercise. It can also be done more traditionally as part of the warmup or cooldown, or as a separate session (yoga, for example) depending on your preferences. For this test specifically, foot/ankle, knee, hip and back flexibility is required.

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