Low levels of physical capability in middle age linked to diminished survival

Low levels of physical capability in midlife, including weak grip strength, slow chair rise speed and poor standing balance performance, may indicate poorer chances of survival as individuals age, according to results from a recently published study.

Researchers from the United Kingdom, United States and Norway, led by Rachel Cooper, PhD, Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London, used data from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development to examine the associations of grip strength, chair rise speed and standing balance time in individuals aged 53 years with all-cause mortality from 1999 to 2012.

Physical capability was assessed during home visits. One hundred seventy-seven deaths occurred in participants aged between 53 and 66: 88 due to cancer, 47 to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 42 to other causes. Participants with lower physical capability scores at age 53 years tended to have lower socioeconomic position, less healthy lifestyles and higher prevalence of self-reported CVD, diabetes and severe respiratory symptoms compared with those with higher scores, according to the study published online in the BMJ.

Those who could not perform any of the tests had death rates more than 12 times higher than people able to perform all three tests, the researchers found. The researchers concluded there are “robust associations of standing balance time, chair rise speed and grip strength at age 53 with all-cause mortality rates over 13 years of follow-up,” and suggested these simple tests can identify people who are less likely to achieve a long and healthy life.

For more information:

Cooper R. BMJ. 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2219.

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