How quickly and easily you can sit down on the floor and then get up may give you a hint about how long you’ll live. A study from Brazil published in the November 1, 2012 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked at how adept some 2,002 men and women ages 51 to 80 were at performing these moves. We know that aerobic fitness correlates with a longer life span, but this study suggests that flexibility, muscle strength, balance and co-ordination are also important factors in determining longevity. Study leader Claudio Gil Araújo, Ph.D., explained that “if a middle-aged or older man or woman can sit and rise from the floor using just one hand – or even better without the help of a hand – they are not only in the higher quartile of musculoskeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so.” The study showed that each additional support needed to sit down on the floor and then get up - hand, forearm, knee, side of leg, or hand on the knee - was associated with a 21 percent lower chance of survival over the approximately six years of the study’s follow-up.
My take? This interesting study points up the benefits of remaining physically fit as we get older. At any age, an exercise program should contain three elements: aerobic activity (such as walking, swimming or biking) for cardiovascular fitness, resistance training to maintain muscle strength (which declines by about 15 percent per decade during one's 60s and 70s) and exercises to increase flexibility and balance, which can help prevent falls as you age - and may help you sit down on the floor and then get up with little or no support. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that seniors perform resistance training workouts at least two days a week. For flexibility, I recommend stretching classes, yoga or Pilates, a conditioning system that increases both core strength and flexibility. I also highly recommend tai chi, which promotes flexibility, balance, and good body awareness.