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Performance on Basic Physical Tests Can Predict Life Span


Seniors who are better at performing simple everyday physical acts, such as gripping, walking, and balancing, are more likely to live longer according to the latest research from the UK published in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

Grip Strength Most Positively Correlated with Longevity in Aging

Researchers from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at the University College of London reviewed 57 studies that evaluated objective measures of physical capability such as grip strength, walking speed, chair rising time, and standing balance ability. After excluding studies of people in institutions such as hospital and care homes the final analysis included 14 studies involving 53,476 participants who were mostly over the age of 70.

Read: Stronger Muscles May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

Overall, the team found that there was consistent evidence of the association between all four measures of physical capability and mortality. In other words, those who performed poorly on these tests had a higher risk of death.

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In the case of grip strength, those who were weakest had a 1.67 times greater rate of death after taking into account age, sex, and body size. Those who had the slowest walking speeds had a 2.87 times greater risk of death than those who were fastest after similar adjustments. Those who could not rise from a chair quickly were almost 2 times as likely to die.

Read: Injury Prevention for Older Adults

A steep decline in physical capability may be a better predictor of mortality than the level of performance at a single point in time, say the authors led by Rachel Cooper PhD of the Medical Research Council, a publicly funded research organization in London.

The authors concluded that “objective measures of physical capability are predictors of all cause mortality in older community-dwelling populations. Such measures may therefore provide useful tools for identifying older people at higher risk of death.”

Source Reference:
Objectively measured physical capability levels and mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis
Rachel Cooper, Diana Kuh, Rebecca Hardy
BMJ 2010; 341:c4467