The 30-second sit-to-stand test has gained popularity for its more gimmicky promise of predicting when you’ll die (spoiler: it definitely can’t). But the simple challenge can tell you a thing or two about your flexibility and balance: two important indicators of healthspan and longevity as you age.
The test, which some physicians use as an indicator of longevity, is “an indirect marker of your health,” Natalie Azar, M.D. told hosts of the Today Show.
The test is straightforward: you start standing, lower yourself to the floor or a chair, and then stand up again. Rinse and repeat for 30 seconds. The only catch: you can’t use your hands, arms, knees, or the floor or chair to assist you.
As TikTokers who have been attempting the challenge can attest: it’s harder than it sounds.
What is the Sit to Stand Test?
The 30-second sit to stand test—also called the sit to rise test—is used by physical therapists and doctors to assess agility, flexibility, core and leg strength in aging adults.
The test measures lower limb and core muscle strength, which can help prevent falls.
What’s the Research Behind the Test?
A 2012 study in the European Journal of Cardiology revealed that the test was a significant predictor of mortality for people between the ages of 51 and 80. The lower study participants’ score, the more likely they were to die in the next six years (1).
A 2021 review in the journal Biology found that the five times sit-to-stand test —a variation of the sit to stand challenge—is an accurate indicator of functional mobility and independence (2). In other words, if you can successfully complete the test, it can delay the need for mobility aids like a walker or wheelchair to get around.
If you’re an avid gym-goer and retirement is still far down the line, this challenge is still an easy way to test your hip flexor mobility, strength and flexibility, Jennifer Tripken, associate director for the Center of Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging, tells Fortune. Hip mobility can help prevent injuries while working out, and can support speed and agility— especially if you’re an avid runner (3).
How To Do the Sit-to-Stand Test
The Original: 30-Second Chair Stand
Researchers and physical therapists have supported the 30-second chair stand test as a measurement of functional mobility in older adults for decades (4). Here’s how to do the OG version of this viral challenge:
- Sit in a chair with a flat back. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms and grab the opposite shoulder. Keep this position for the entirety of the test.
- Rise to a full standing position, keeping your back straight and arms crossed. Set a timer for 30 seconds, and count how many times you can go from sitting to standing.
How to interpret your score
According to the CDC, a below average score on the chair stand test can indicate your fall risk depending on your age.
- Age 60-64: a below average score is less than 14 repetitions for men
- Age 65-69: a below average score is less than 12 repetitions for men
- Age 70-74: a below average score is less than 12 repetitions for men
- Age 75-79: a below average score is less than 11 repetitions for men
- Age 80-84: a below average score is less than 10 repetitions for men
- Age 85-89: a below average score is less than 8 repetitions for men
- Age 90-94: a below average score is less than 7 repetitions for men
The Trend: Sit-to-Stand Floor Test
- Stand barefoot on a flat surface.
- Lower yourself to the floor in a criss-cross position, without using your hands, knees, arms or the sides of your legs (crossing your arms across your chest or keeping them outstretched can help reduce the temptation to grab your knee).
You start with 10 points. If you complete the challenge without supporting yourself with a body part or by touching the floor, you get a perfect score. For each time you needed aid, you lost one point. If you aren’t able to transition to the floor without help, your score is zero.
Ideally, your score should be somewhere between eight and ten, says Azar.
What If I Don’t Score Well?
Don’t fret. If you have to reach for a knee or nearby object on your way up or down, it doesn’t mean your life is on the line. Practicing balance and hip flexor exercises can improve your mobility in the long run, which can make it easier to complete the challenge.
The Edge’s Fitness and Nutrition Editor Sydney Bueckert NASM CPT, CES, FNS, GPT shares her favorite exercises for hip flexor mobility. Give these a try if you aren’t happy with your sit-to-stand test score:
Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Start with an upright lunge with your back knee resting on the floor, then squeezing through the glute (rather than shifting forward) to lengthen the hip flexor. Press further through the glute, and stretch the same arm as the side being stretched up and over your head to deepen the stretch. You can hold this as a static stretch but for mobility purposes move into the stretch for ten seconds or so, then relax and repeat remembering to breathe through the motion, and focusing on deepening the stretch with each rep if it’s available to you.
Frog Hip Stretch
This stretch looks super awkward but feels amazing on the hip flexors. Get into a quadruped position (all fours) then spread your knees wide, come down on your elbows if it’s available to you or shift your hands in front of you. Mimic your squat position, so focus on keeping your spine neutral. Rock forward then back moving through the hips, with the goal to feel the stretch as you push your hips back towards your toes. Find a tight spot and hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat.
This exercise is another classic. Starting in plank, slide one leg in front of you, the goal to have your lower leg faced perpendicular to your body (90 degrees) but where your knees and toes fall should depend on your flexibility. Slide your other leg back straight behind you keeping hips square, or bend it to a 90 degree angle. Lower yourself onto your elbows, reaching your chest to the floor to deepen the stretch.
If you have concerns about your functional mobility, consult a physician or physical therapist.
- Barbosa Barreto de Brito, et al (2012). Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality.
- Munoz-Bermejo, et al (2021). Test-Retest Reliability of Five Times Sit to Stand Test (FTSST) in Adults.
- Teichmann, et al (2021). Hip Mobility and Flexibility for Track and Field Athletes.
- Jones, et al (1999). A 30-s chair-stand test as a measure of lower body strength in community-residing older adults.