Longevity isn’t just about how long you live—it’s about staying healthy for as much of that time as possible. The sit-to-stand test could be a good way to find out how healthy you are and could even predict how long you’ll live, research suggests.
“It’s an indirect marker of your health,” says NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar, who joined TODAY’s 3rd Hour on March 8 and walked the hosts through the simple test that some doctors use as an indicator of longevity .
What is the sit-to-stand test?
“It’s actually a stand-up to stand-up exam,” Azar told TODAY.com. However, this is a little uncomfortable, so many people call it the “sit-to-stand test” or “the sit-to-stand test.” Basically, you start the test standing up, sit cross-legged on the ground, and then stand up again.
Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. You must go from standing to sitting and back without using your hands or any part of your body other than your legs and stomach to help you get on or off.
What does the test measure?
This simple test is an effective indicator of health because you need to have strong cardiovascular health, good balance, agility, flexibility, and core and leg strength to be able to complete it, Azar says.
What is the research behind it?
A 2012 study found that the sit-to-stand test (SRT) was a significant predictor of mortality in participants between the ages of 51 and 80. “The study found that the lower the score, the more likely you were to die in the next six years,” Azar says.
But, Azar points out, the lowest-scoring people in the study were the oldest — meaning they also had the highest risk of dying within the next six years.
That doesn’t mean the test isn’t legitimate or that it can’t tell you anything about your health, even if you’re under 51, Azar says.
“As we get older, we spend time talking about cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness, but balance, flexibility and agility are also very important,” Azar emphasizes.
How to take the test
The goal is to go from standing to sitting on the floor and back to standing without the help of your hands. Here’s how to do it:
Start standing up and give yourself 10 points.
Sit on the floor with your legs crossed.
Deduct a point each time you use your hand, knee, forearm, or side of your leg to help.
If you can sit and stand unaided, you scored a perfect 10. If you can’t stand up at all, your score is zero.
How to interpret your result
“Eight points or more is what you want,” Hazard says. But she points out that there are many things the test doesn’t take into account. “What if you’re fit but you’ve had an injury?” she says. The test doesn’t count injuries, so either wait until you’re healed to try the test, or don’t assume your results are the end all, it’s all a measure of your health.
“The test also doesn’t account for musculoskeletal limitations,” Azar says. So if you have mobility issues, your score may never reach 10. That doesn’t mean you’re not healthy and fit, Azar explains.
Azar adds that she takes this test all the time, and that her own score isn’t always perfect, even though she’s in excellent physical health. Many factors can come into play. If, for example, you haven’t slept well or have back pain, give yourself some grace. This is not a pass/fail test. There’s a whole 10-point scale for a reason.
What if I don’t score well?
“Take it with a grain of salt,” Azar says.
You can’t control the passage of time—aka aging—but you can make the decision to prioritize your fitness in new ways. “If you’re not able to do that, then take stock,” Hazard suggests. “Ask yourself: How can I improve my core strength, leg strength, balance and agility?”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com