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Last updated May 20, 2017, originally published May 11, 2015
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist

It’s a question that plays on our minds, particularly as we get a little
older: how long do I have left? How many more years do I have to
live? While practically none of us know the exact answer to this
question, thanks to scientific research there is one key test that helps
predict how long you will live.  Testing your leg strength is one key
indicator of longevity. Why does leg strength help predict mortality?
Find out how the leg strength test predicts your future.

Why Test Leg Strength?

To live longer, you need to get moving, keep moving, and maintain
your muscle and balance.

You need strong legs to maintain your balance. As you get older,
reduced muscle power and weaker leg strength contribute to a loss of
balance that increases your risk of dangerous falls. And falls are one of
the leading causes of permanent disability. In fact, 29% of people who
fall and break their hips die within a year, according to a 2006 study
from the University of Maryland Medical School.

Plus, when you do not have sufficient strength in your legs  you don’t
exercise to your fullest capacity, which leads to a greater risk of
cardiovascular disease and early death.

Testing leg strength is a test of your fitness at a basic level. Tests
involving the legs also measure flexibility, coordination, and balance –
key indicators of a healthy body. When you have strong legs and can
sit and stand easily, you are more likely to be engaging in physical
activity and keeping your heart healthy.

Scientists have devised leg and muscle strength tests to predict
longevity and also to give people practical, measurable action points.

Put it this way, who are you going to listen to more closely; the doctor
who says you need to get fit, or the doctor who tells you that unless
you get fit, you’ll be dead in six years’ time?

Test Your Leg Strength to Predict Mortality

A 2010 study from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern
University, Chicago found that leg strength predicts mortality in men
with peripheral arterial disease.

In the study, 246 men aged 55 and above took part in a series of leg
strength tests including isometric knee extension, knee flexion, hip
extension, and hip flexion.

Poorer leg strength was associated with higher mortality. The lower the
leg strength, the more likely these men were to die.

A 2012 study by researchers at the same institution also demonstrated
that poor leg strength was a predictor of mortality in men with
peripheral arterial disease.

Another study in 2012, this one from Northwestern University found
that poor scores in a stair-climbing test are associated with greater risk
of death in men with peripheral arterial disease.

High Leg Strength Helps Protect You from the Dangers of High Blood

Muscular strength is important if you have high blood pressure,
according to experts, regardless of your levels of physical activity.

A 2011 study by the University of Granada, Spain demonstrated that
high levels muscular strength measured by leg and bench presses
appear to protect hypertensive men against mortality from all causes, in
addition to the benefit provided by cardiovascular fitness.

Leg Strength Also Predicts Mortality in Healthy Men

Most studies look at men with existing health conditions like
hypertension and peripheral arterial disease, but a 2008 study from the
Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden shows that
higher muscle strength is linked to a lower risk of death from all causes,
and cancer, even after adjusting for cardiovascular fitness and other
factors. The study looked at 8,762 men aged 20 to 80.

How to Measure Your Leg Strength

You can measure leg strength by seeing how many leg presses you can
do in a set amount of time. Or how many squats you can do. Here is an
explanation of
how many squats an average man of should be able to

Or, try this simple sitting/ standing test to measure your leg strength,
flexibility, and coordination. The test was developed by Brazilian
physician Claudio Gil Araujo, of Gama Filho University in Rio de Janeiro.

Wearing loose clothes and no shoes, lower yourself into a cross-legged
sitting position without holding on to or leaning on anything. Now,
stand up without using your arms, hands, or knees to offer support or
help you up.

Score yourself a maximum of 10 points for sitting down and standing
up without wobbling or using your hands or legs to support or assist

Dock yourself one point every time you put a hand or leg out for
support. Deduct half a point for wobbling.

Struggling with this test – scoring less than eight - means you are five
times more likely to die in the next six years, according to researchers.

Be aware, however, that this test is designed to measure health in 51
to 80 year olds. Younger people are not covered in the statistics.

Also, this test not only measures leg strength --it measures balance as
well, so you will have to improve both balance and strength to improve
your score.

Another alternative test, particularly recommended if you have knee
problems or arthritis, is to stand up from a sitting position and see how
many times you can repeat the action in 30 seconds.

Men aged between 60 and 64 should be able to do this more than 14
times in 30 seconds.

Take the Stairs to Increase Leg Strength

There are of course many different types of exercises you can do in the
gym to increase leg strength, including
weighted squats.  

But simply taking the stairs 4 to 5 times a week can also increase leg
strength, especially if you normally do not climb stairs.  

y the age of 79, over 52% of people have trouble climbing up or
down the stairs or both, according to a 2008 study from Albert Einstein
College of Medicine.

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