A simple test that assesses a person’s ability to sit and rise from the floor has proven to be a very accurate predictor of mortality risk. The finding comes from a study, published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, by a group of researchers in Brazil.

A total of 2002 adults aged 51 to 80 participated in the study. The researchers timed how long it took them to sit up and then rise from the floor without any help. The median follow-up period was 6.3 years from the baseline test.

They told the participants to try and sit up with the least amount of support that they believe necessary, and not worry about their speed. They scored the participants’ ability to both sit and rise out of 5. For each time the participants used support from their hand, knee or other part of their body the researchers would subtract a point. A total composite score out of 10 was assigned to them which would determine which category or group they belonged to (C1, 0-3; C2, 3.5-5.5; C3, 6-7.5; and C4, 8-10).

A total of 159 people died (a 7.9% mortality rate) at the end of the study, with significantly more deaths occurring among people with low test scores. They found that the rates of mortality between the four groups differed by quite a great deal, even when controlled for gender, age and body mass index (BMI). Those belonging to group C1, which had the lowest score range, were 5-6 times at higher risk of death than those in group C4. This difference suggests that the sitting score is good predictor of all-cause mortality.

Participants with scores below 8 had mortality rates 2 to 5 times higher than those with scores ranging from 8-10. The authors noted: “a 1-point increment in the [sitting-rising] score was related to a 21% reduction in mortality.”

Dr Araújo said:

“It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favourable influence on life expectancy.”

He added:

“When compared to other approaches to functional testing, the sitting-rising test does not require specific equipment and is safe, easy to apply in a short time period (less than 2 minutes), and reliably scored. In our clinical practice, the test has been shown over the past ten years to be useful and practical for application to a large spectrum of populations, ranging from paediatric to geriatric.”

Dr Araujo concluded that the test has great potential to become a quick appraisal of musculo-skeletal fitness among the middle-aged and elderly in a clinical setting.

In addition to this method, there are other ways of determining mortality risk, another study found that an accurate predictor of mortality risk in older people is measuring hip-waist ratio.

The sit and rise test could become an efficient tool to measure mortality risk in elders.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist