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Millennial Men are Weaker than Their Fathers
A study of 237 healthy, full-time students in North Carolina has concluded that males have much lower grip strength today than they did 31 years ago: the average male could grip with 98 pounds of force, compared to 117 pounds in 1985. That's actually an important factor in longevity - here's why.
No one can predict exactly how long you'll live, but researchers have devised some surprisingly simple tests that are strongly correlated with a risk of early death - or a longer life - in the years to come. Here's a look at some basic ways scientists are attempting to assess your physical capability and the associated chances of living longer.
1. Sitting Rising Test: Developed in the late 1990s by Brazilian scientist Claudio Gil Soares de Araujo at Gama Filho University in Rio de Janeiro, this test simply involves going from a standing position in a small (2 meters by 2 meters) area, to a sitting position on the floor, and then rising again.
Subjects are scored according to how many supports they require to perform the cycle: a point lost for using a hand, forearm, or knee, for example, to either sit or stand. Another half-point is deducted for generally unstable execution. A total of 10 points can be achieved for each full cycle.
In a 2014 paper published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Araujo and others discovered that older adults had a 5-6 times greater risk of mortality during the 6.3-year followup period, if they scored only 0-3 points on the test, relative to the top-performers scoring between 8-10 points. A total of 2002 adults between the ages of 51 and 80 years participated in the study.
Araujo's team writes that the Sitting Rising Test (SRT) is a simple gauge of musculoskeletal fitness, with the capacity to predict mortality among community-dwelling adults in this age range.
Another version is the Chair Rise Speed Test, which calculates how many times you can rise from a chair and sit back down again, within a minute.
A 2014 paper published in the British Medical Journal compared the fastest sitters with the slowest among 2766 53-year old adults. At baseline, women performed anywhere from 21 stands/minute on the low end, to almost 37 stands/minute. The range among men was just under 22 stands/minute for the low performers, to 39 stands/minute at the high end.
After 13 years, those of either gender who performed poorest at the outset had more than twice the risk of death from any cause when compared with those with a higher chair rise speed at the start of the study.
2. Grip Strength: The strength of your hand grip is typically measured using an electronic dynamometer. In numerous studies a stronger grip has been linked with lower all-cause mortality, especially among older adults. In the 2014 UK study of adults aged 53, women's grip strength ranged from 21kg (46lb) to almost 34kg (75lb), while the men squeezed from 36kg (79lb) to 54.5kg (120lb). Averaged across both sexes, and taking other risk factors like body mass index, smoking status and physical activity levels into account, the 53-year olds with the poorest grip strength had anywhere from a 29% to 98% greater risk of death from any cause during the 13 years of followup.
3. Standing Balance Time: The same 2014 BMJ paper examined how long its subjects could stand on one foot with their eyes closed.
The resulting times were short, with a maximum average of just 19 seconds for men, and 10 seconds for women. The good news: achieving simply those brief standing balance times was linked with lower mortality. Poor performers of the standing balance test - clocking in at just 3 seconds for both women and men - had a 2.5 greater chance of dying from any cause, during the 13-year study.
4. Sitting Height: If you think your overall height is the only tallness measure researchers are interested in, you're wrong. Sitting height, an anthropometric measurement which compares the relative proportions of the torso and legs, has been linked in Western populations to the incidence of heart disease. Greater leg length (and less relative sitting height) has been viewed as an indicator of better childhood health, which may protect against age-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes in adulthood.
Data on other ethnic populations are less clear, however; a 2007 Chinese study found that greater sitting height was linked with more diabetes and abnormal lipid levels (dyslipidemia), whereas a 2011 paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found no relationship between height (including sitting height) with mortality among 136,202 adults in the Shanghai Women's and Men's Health Studies.
5. Gait Speed: Can how fast you naturally walk say anything about your longevity? Yes - according to epidemiologists from the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere, in their 2011 paper published in JAMA. The researchers examined 9 separate studies involving a total of 34,485 participants, and found that among both sexes, gait speed was linked with survival at all ages. A natural gait speed of 0.8 metres/second (about 1.8 miles/hour) corresponded with average life expectancy for each age; walking faster than that as a natural pace was linked with better than average longevity.
Since walking requires energy, balance, and engages multiple organ systems to work together, the researchers suggest slower speed may indicate hidden illness or poor overall conditioning.
6. Waist to Height Ratio: Some researchers believe that waist to height ratio - calculated by dividing the waist circumference in centimetres by a person's height (also measured in centimetres) is a better predictor of disease than weight, or body mass index. The advice is simple: keep your abdominal fat down, and make sure your waist measurement is not greater than half your height.
Bottom line: These tests are simple tools to measure the statistical probability of an early death, as indictors of overall health and conditioning. You can improve your own odds of living a long, healthy life by staying physically active, eating an anti-aging diet, staying active within your social circle, keeping stress at bay, not smoking, and drinking only in moderation.
Build Healthy Habits for Better Longevity:
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Stephanie Studenski, Subashan Perera, Kushang Patel et al. "Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults." JAMA 2011;305(1):50-58. jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=644554
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