The best thing about these longevity tests is that we can use these tests to improve our health. In other words, if you discover that you do not do well on one of these tests, you can work to improve your score and your overall physical well-being, at the same time.
Walking Speed and Longevity
According to a January 4, 2011 article on ScientificAmerican.com entitled "Walking Speed Predicts Life Expectancy of Older Adults," the walking speed of people over the age of 65 is a reliable marker for their general health and longevity.
This means that the faster your natural gate when you are walking, the more likely you are to be alive in the next five or ten years. This was based on the analysis of data at the University of Pittsburgh's Division of Geriatric Medicine.
The researchers determined that people with an average life expectancy walked at about 0.8 meters per second. If they walked at a rate of 1.0 meter per second, their life expectancy was longer than average. Those who walked at a slower than average pace tended to have a shorter life expectancy.
Of course, this test will not be accurate if the only time you walk fast is when you are taking the test. Instead, if you notice that you normally tend to walk slowly, you may want to put some effort into gradually increasing your speed. This will improve the aerobic workout you get when you are walking around in the normal course of your day and, consequently, your general health.
Ability to Rise Unaided from the Floor Predicts Longevity
As reported in the article "Simple Test Predicts Longevity" at health.yahoo.com, another test that appears to estimate our longevity is our ability to sit on the floor and then stand up again using as little support as possible. How long it took to stand up was not measured. However, the amount of outside support needed was scored. When people needed to brace themselves with a hand, a knee or both, they lost points. If they looked wobbly, they also lost points.
About half of the study participants between the ages of 76 and 80 scored 0 to 3 on a 10 point scale. In contrast, about 70 percent of those under the age of 60 received high scores of 8, 9 and 10. This means that they only needed a modest amount of support, such as briefly placing a hand on the floor or on their knee.
Those who scored 3 or below had a 6.5 times higher death rate over the next six years than those who scored 8 or higher. People who scored between 3.5 and 5.5 were about 3.8 times more likely to die than those with the highest scores. Those who scored between 6 and 7.4 were 1.8 times as likely to die than those who had scored higher.
The bottom line was that a one point improvement in the subject's sitting-to-rising score correlated to a 21 percent decrease in their mortality or death risk. The lesson to be learned from this test is that people who have stronger legs and core muscles tend to live longer. These are muscles that can be strengthened with weight training, either in a gym or by using hand weights and performing common exercises in a class or at home. Again, putting some effort into improving your core and leg strength can also translate to a longer lifespan.
Why Do These Longevity Tests Work?
These tests give doctors important clues to your overall health and fitness. Our fitness level is closely associated with our survival rate. In related studies, it has been shown that having body flexibility, muscle strength, coordination and a high strength to body weight ratio are also important indicators of our fitness. For example, people who are flexible enough to touch their toes and perform similar stretches also tend to have more flexible arteries. This is one indicator of a healthy cardiovascular system. Doing yoga stretches can help improve our health in this area.
Having good balance is also an important indicator of our health. In addition, it has been shown that improving the balance of older people helps to protect them from falls and related injuries. Since illnesses related to falls are one of the leading causes of death in senior citizens, having good balance can improve our longevity.
The retirement community where I live offers special balance classes. In addition, many of the yoga and aerobic classes in our community are also designed to help the participants improve their balance, flexibility and core muscle strength. This shows how important it is to continue to get exercise on a regular basis no matter how old we are. In fact, some residents of our community who are over 100 years old continue to go to the gym every day. This should be a lesson to the rest of us!
Researchers who performed the longevity studies stressed that these tests were not a fail-proof system of determining your personal life expectancy. Just as people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels may live longer than expected, or people who seem to be in perfect health may die suddenly and unexpectedly, these tests are not a guarantee that you will either die soon or live a long time. However, they are thought-provoking and helpful in motivating us to improve our fitness levels.
If you are interested in improving your health and fitness so that you score better on these tests, take up activities such as walking, yoga, swimming and weight training.
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