People usually see a physical therapist for pain or loss of function. But, did you know that as experts in movement science physical therapists can help you live healthier and live longer?
There is strong evidence suggesting that movement is a valuable predictor of future health and resilience against disease. Physical therapists are movement specialists, so taking advantage of their expertise makes sense if your goal is to become healthier and live longer. Here are some examples of the power of movement when it comes to predicting future health:
Gait velocity is how fast you walk. Studies have shown that if your typical walking speed is over 1 meter per second or 3.3 feet per second, you’re likely able to complete typical daily activities independently. You’re also less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to have adverse events like falls.
If you’d like to test yourself, measure out a straight, flat course to walk between 10 feet and 30 feet long. You’ll also need 5 feet or so at the beginning and the end for acceleration and deceleration. Walk the course at your typical speed and divide the length of the course by how long it took you to walk it (distance/time). That’s your gait velocity.
Get On and Off the Floor
A series of studies suggest that if you can go from standing to sitting on the floor and back to standing without using your hands, you’re a lot less likely to die than someone who can’t. It’s called the sitting-rising test. Here’s how it works:
You start standing, and without support you sit down on the floor, then stand back up. You start with a score of 10. Every time you put a hand, knee, forearm or the side of your leg on the floor you lose one point. Putting a hand on your knee or thigh to help also costs a point. In a sample of over 2,000 people, they found that scoring less than eight points made you twice as likely to die in the next six years when compared to people who scored higher. Score three or less and you’re five times more likely to die in the same period. Overall, each point in the test is worth a 21% decrease in mortality from all causes.
Notice that both gait velocity and the sitting-rising test aren’t specific to any one thing. The risk of hospitalization in the gait velocity studies was hospitalization for any reason. Death in the sitting-rising studies was death from anything. So while we know that exercise and healthy lifestyle reduce your risk of specific diseases like heart disease or diabetes, it appears that being able to move may provide much more wide ranging protection than we previously thought.
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