A Functional MD's Quick Trick To Test Lower-Body Strength
Sitting all day, undoubtedly and unsurprisingly, has its negative side effects. Stiffness in the neck and shoulders and back and hip pain are just a few obvious consequences, but apparently neglecting low-body strength can also interfere with healthy aging.
In a recent TikTok video, functional medicine doctor and mbg Collective member Amy Shah, M.D., said, "Lower body strength is so important for brain health and aging," and several studies have supported that.
The link between lower-body strength and longevity.
One study, published in the Journal of Aging Health, looked at the muscle mass and strength1 of 1,280 adults who were 55 and older. They found leg strength to be one of the biggest predictors of physical ability later in life, regardless of age or gender.
Another 2018 study, which Shah cites in her video, looked at what would happen if mice stopped using their back legs for 28 days. Turns out, not maintaining or utilizing that lower-body muscle mass decreased brain cells by 70%2. These effects can increase the risk for dementia, Alzheimer's, or other neurodegenerative disorders.
So, all-in-all, "Lower-body strength is such a huge marker for health," Shah tells mbg. So, how do you know if yours is on track?
How to test your lower-body strength.
In the TikTok, Shah demonstrates a quick sit-stand test to check your lower-body strength function, and yes, it's as simple as it sounds:
- Sit down, crisscross.
- Stand up using only leg strength. (Try to keep your hands in prayer pose to avoid the temptation of using your arms for momentum.)
- Repeat this five times in a row.
For older adults or people with balance disorders, Shah says to try the sit-stand test using a chair3.
As for ways to increase leg strength, "Walking, doing lunges and squats, and taking frequent breaks from sitting are my best recs," Shah says. To further counteract the effects of sitting, try these 14 PT-approved stretches and these tips for making your office chair more ergonomic.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.