When was the last time you were on the floor (on purpose)? If you're like most adults, odds are it's been a while. As you age, it's important to regularly get down to the floor and back up. Why? Because this ability is closely related to your overall fall risk. Some research even suggests that the ability to sit down and stand up from the floor without assistance — dubbed the "sitting-rising" test — can predict mortality.
If getting up and down isn't as easy as it used to be, fear not. To regain strength and flexibility, try these exercises and tips from Jane T. Hein, physical therapist, and Bradly W. Prigge, exercise specialist with Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.
The sitting-rising test: What's your score?
In the "sitting-rising" test, researchers measured how easy or difficult it was for middle-age and older adults to get up and down from the floor without assistance.
Try a version of the test for yourself: Start from standing. Sit all the way down to the floor and then rise back up to standing. Use the least amount of support you need to stay stable and safe. Move as fast or as slow as you like — speed doesn't matter here.
If you can sit down and stand up without using your hands, arms, knees or furniture for support, you score a perfect 10. That's 5 points for getting down, and 5 points for coming back up. Each time you stabilize yourself by using another body part (other than your feet), take off one point.
If you didn't score a perfect 10, don't worry. It's not easy! A higher score (8-10 points) indicates that you have the strength and mobility to perform a wide range of daily activities. A lower score (0-3 points) indicates a more limited ability and an opportunity to improve your strength and mobility.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in older adults. Plus, serious complications from falls, like pressure sores, dehydration and pneumonia, are more likely if you aren't able to get into an upright position. Older adults who maintain muscle strength and flexibility through regular physical activity are less likely to fall.
Functional exercises to increase strength and improve mobility
Functional exercises train your muscles to make everyday activities easier — like getting up from a chair or the floor. Jane and Brad recommend the following:
For leg strength and stability
These standing exercises can help improve your strength, balance and coordination, so you feel strong on your feet.
- Squat: Bend your hips and knees like you're going to sit in a chair. Lower down as far as you can, pain-free. Work toward your thighs being parallel to the ground or even lower. Keep your weight on your heels. Don't allow your knees to move forward past your toes. Return to the starting position by pressing through your heels and straightening your legs.
- Lunge: Step your left leg forward to create a split stance position. Bend both knees to lower your body toward the ground. Keep your torso upright. To return to the starting position, straighten your knees back up to split stance, and step your left foot back underneath you. Repeat on the right side.
For upper body and core strength
If you do fall, these exercises will help build a strong upper body and core to help you get up.
- Bridge: Lie with your back on the floor. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the ground. Press your feet into the floor and lift your hips off the ground. Lower your hips back down to the floor.
- Roll: Lie with your back on the floor. Roll over to your side, then roll to your stomach. Reverse the movement and return to lying on your back. Repeat by rolling to your other side.
- Pushup (on knees): Lie with your stomach on the floor. Place your hands on the ground under your shoulders. Press your hands into the floor. Push your body up and away from the floor until you are on all fours (hands and knees position).
- Crawling: Crawl forward on your hands and knees by moving the opposite arm and leg at the same time, then crawl backward to the starting position.
Increase your daily floor time
To maintain your ability to move up and down from the floor as you age, practice makes perfect. Be intentional about spending more time on the floor:
- Forgo the couch. When watching TV or reading a book, sit on the floor instead.
- Add floor stretches to the end of your workouts.
- Take a class. Join exercise classes that include floor time — think Yoga or Pilates.