TikTok Myth of the Week: The Sit-to-Stand Test Tells You When You’re Going to Die - Living Strong Television Network

Big news from TikTok: a silly thing I’ve done as a party trick (standing up from a cross-legged position without using my hands) is now being shared as a test of your longevity. If you can’t sit on the ground and stand up without using your hands, sorry, you’re going to die sometime in the next six years. 

Of course this isn’t true, but supposedly a 2012 study says that it is. Let’s take a look at the grain of truth behind this trend, and what it really means (or doesn’t mean) if you aren’t able to do it. 

What is the sit-to-stand test? 

This is a trick question! There are two sit-to-stand tests, only one of which has been accompanied by the dire six-year warning.

On one hand, there is the test that’s traditionally been called “sit to stand.” It involves a chair. You cross your arms over your shoulders, and then an observer–maybe a nurse or physical therapist–counts how many times you can stand up and sit down in 30 seconds. It’s used as a very basic measure of cardiovascular fitness. You might not be an athlete, but if you can do 16 reps or more, you’re in pretty good shape for a 65-year-old. (There are scoring charts for older folks, but it hasn’t been validated for use in younger populations.) 

The one making the rounds on TikTok is a different test. It’s often called the SRT, for “sitting-rising test.” This one asks you to sit down on the ground and then stand up with the minimum support you believe you need. Every time you put your hand or knee on the ground (or use your hand to push on your knee), you lose a point. A perfect score of 10 points requires you to sit and stand without using your hands or knees at all. 

This is where the party trick comes in. If you can cross your legs, then sit down and stand up from that position, you get a perfect score! (Sort of. There’s a big caveat we’ll discuss in a minute.) So all the fitness influencers are posting videos of themselves doing it easily, and telling you that if you can’t do it too, welp, guess you’ll die. 

Where does the dying within six years come in? 

A 2012 paper from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology asked about 2,000 people to do the SRT, and then followed them for about six years (6.3, on average). They were older adults, between 51 and 80 years old. During the follow-up period, there were more deaths among people who got low scores on the test (0-3) than among people who got scores of 8 or better. 

Note that the higher-risk group were the people who scored 0-3, not (as TikTok would have you believe) 9 or lower. Also note that the people with low scores did not all die. Even among people who scored 3 or worse–remembering that they were older adults to begin with–60% of them were still alive at the end of the six-year follow-up. So to summarize: 

  • Getting a 9/10 is not a failing grade. Anything 8 and up was considered a high score.

  • Even people who got very poor scores (0-3) did not all die; more than half were still alive at the end of the six years.

The researchers did find that people who scored worse on the test were more likely to die during follow-up than people who scored highly. So they propose that the test is useful for longevity. 

But get this: they say it’s useful for identifying older people whose muscular weakness and lack of flexibility may put them at risk of falls, injury, and difficulty performing everyday tasks. Not for fit people to convince themselves that they’re going to die soon. 

There are, in fact, many tests of physical fitness that correlate with mortality. That sit-to-stand test that you do with a chair also finds that people who score well are less likely to die in the short term. The same can be said of walking tests, flexibility tests, grip strength tests, and more. The 2012 paper on the SRT was notable because it’s a simple test to administer, and seems to give healthcare workers better information on a patient than those other tests (or at least that’s what the authors contend). Whether it’s fun to do on TikTok is completely beside the point. 

How to stand up from the ground without using your hands

Okay, here’s where we get into the practical side of things. First, learn how the test is actually done. Before you attempt it, the tester is supposed to say this to you: 

Without worrying about the speed of movement, try to sit and then to rise from the floor, using the minimum support that you believe is needed.

The tester then watches you, and deducts a point (from a score of 5 for sitting and 5 for standing) for each hand, knee, forearm, or side of leg that you use for support. They can also deduct half a point if you look like you’re losing your balance. 

Here’s what a lot of the TikTokers miss: the test allows you to sit and stand cross-legged if you can do it without using the sides of your feet. Watching a bunch of these videos, I’m not sure if anybody who I saw do it cross-legged is actually scoring a perfect 10. 

You can still score a passing 8 if you use one hand to get down and get up, or one knee (or one of each). The official test also allows the tester to coach you, and give you more chances to improve. So you’re actually doing great even if it takes you some practice to master this, and if you “only” score an 8 in the end.

But what if I just want to look cool on TikTok? 

Alright, here’s where I provide the real service journalism. My credentials:  not only can I do the flashy TikTok version of this “test,” I’ve also done it with a 114-pound barbell on my back

To ace the sitting-rising test the TikTok way: 

  1. Cross one foot in front of the other. Make sure your feet are parallel to each other, or as close as you can get (next to each other, without having one way in front). 

  2. Make sure you are balanced on both feet before you start sitting down. If you’re off balance here, you’ll have more trouble later.

  3. As you bend your knees, lean forward so that your center of balance stays over your feet. 

  4. Bring your butt as close as possible to your heels before sitting down. 

  5. Make the standing up stage easier by keeping your feet right where they were when you sat down; no need to relax into a full seated position.

  6. To stand up, lean forward–it will feel like you’re crunching your abs–to get your balance over your feet again. Then stand up. 

Experiment to figure out whether you do best with your feet close together or farther apart. Also play around with how much you use the sides of your feet (which is illegal in the real version, but fine on TikTok). I’ve also found it helps to think of one of your feet as doing most of the work, with the other one supporting you. The working foot can be fully on the ground, and the other might not be. 

What does it mean if I can’t stand up from the ground without using my hands? 

It does not mean you’re going to die in six years, as we’ve discussed. It may mean you could benefit from working on: 

  • Leg strength (start doing some squats and lunges)

  • Ankle mobility

  • Overall flexibility, especially in your hips or anywhere else that feels tight when you attempt this

  • Balance and body awareness

  • Practice! Physical skills improve when you take the time to work on them. 

You can practice with a box or step that is low to the ground; use a smaller step when it starts to feel easier. 

There’s also an element of body proportion that plays into this. Some people can ace this test without even crossing their legs, just by sitting their butt down behind their feet; my body isn’t constructed in a way that lets me do this. (My gangly teenage son can, though.) On the other hand, I can use a wide stance and bring my knees inward into a W-sit, and pop up from that pretty easily. Most people don’t have the internal hip rotation to do that without hurting themselves. We all have our anatomical quirks.

What’s more, there are strong, athletic people who can’t do any of these things, because this is a silly test that we are doing for lols. The original version can identify weak points in your strength and flexibility, even though it doesn’t literally predict your lifespan; the TikTok version really is just for fun.

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