Stand Up for Better Health

Last week in one of my wellness classes, we had a physical therapist come in to demonstrate some techniques for getting up from a fall. Before she left, she had volunteers sit in a chair, cross their arms over their chest, and then stand. The challenge was to sit, stand fully, and sit back down as many times as possible in 30 seconds. This is the chair stand test and it is a measure of leg strength and endurance. It indicates how easily a person can get out of a chair and whether they are at risk for falls.

I volunteered to go first, but I was not prepared for the amount of effort it took. I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, but I was struggling after the second time I stood up. My thighs were aching and I was breathing hard. When she mercifully called time, I had completed 12 cycles. That’s the bare minimum for a healthy body for people in my age group. A poor result for someone who teaches well-being classes! How embarrassing.

As I walked back to my seat, I was surprised that Dot, an 84-year-old member of the class, shot her hand up in the air to volunteer to go next. To look at her, you would assume she would have difficulty doing it more than twice, much less making it the entire 30 seconds. But looks are deceiving. She sat up with her back straight, arms crossed, and waited eagerly for the signal to begin.

When told to go, up she jumped, and then quickly sat back down. Up and down, over and over. By the time it was over, she had managed to repeat the cycle 14 times. And she made it look easy. After the applause died down, the physical therapist told her that she performed like a person 20 years younger.

It was a sobering lesson for me. I work out four days a week in an effort to keep my body in shape, but this was a wake-up call. While I have faithfully kept up the weight lifting, treadmill walking, and cycling, I had neglected my core and quadriceps. Experts suggest mixing up the types of exercises we do, saying that some variety yields better results. That point became obvious during that demonstration. I’m not only going to have to add some new routines to my weekly exercise, I must get out of the habit of pushing on the arms of chairs when I stand up.

I continue to learn more about ways to improve well-being and health. If I needed any more incentive to expand my routine, the chair stand test also strengthens the lower back. That can help me avoid the pain that sometimes comes when I sit too long at my computer. It’s just one more reason to invest in a better future.

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