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Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine researchers uncover key insights on a commonly used field test to assess muscular power in older adults

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine offers health care professionals a more comprehensive understanding of muscular power and endurance in seniors through the use of the 30-second chair rise test. The global population is aging at an increased rate. At the same time, sarcopenia–the decline in muscle strength and mass with age–is becoming more prevalent. The OMNI study looked at the relationship between the number of chair rises completed in 30 seconds and how much power was exerted. The findings suggest that the simple and easy to administer 30-second chair rise test can be a valuable tool for early detection of the loss of muscle power and endurance and help health care professionals better manage and develop intervention strategies for aging populations.

Brian Clark Journal of Gerontology

"Sarcopenia can lead to issues such as mobility limitations, loss of independence and increased mortality rates,” said Brian Clark, Ph.D., executive director of OMNI and Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Harold E. Clybourne, D.O., Endowed Research Chair. “Our research shows that the 30-second chair rise test offers valuable insights into both muscular power and endurance, helping us better understand and address the multifaceted nature of muscle decline with age. It also highlights the need to consider body anthropometrics, such as height and weight, in this test."

The 30-second chair rise test is a commonly administered field test that evaluates how many times a person can completely stand up and sit back down in the given time. However, it wasn't clear if this test accurately measured muscle power. To investigate, OMNI researchers had 75 participants perform the test while connected to a device that tracked their movement speed and distance, allowing for a precise assessment of muscle power.

The study found that in older adults, the number of chair rises completed only explained 17% of the average muscle power of each rise, indicating that counting repetitions alone doesn't fully capture muscle power. However, the total number of chair rises performed in 30 seconds was strongly linked to the overall power exerted during the test, accounting for 75% of the total muscle power. This suggests that the test is a good measure of overall muscular power and endurance, rather than just the power of individual rises. Therefore, the 30-second chair rise test provides a useful way to assess muscle performance, combining aspects of both strength and endurance, which helps in identifying risk of falls or mobility issues due to muscle weakness. Monitoring muscular health this way can lead to early intervention to mitigate further health risks.

Clark also notes that other individual characteristics should be considered as well when conducting the chair rise test.

“Personal physical attributes, like height and weight, were found to affect the relationship between the number of chair rises and the total power exerted,” Clark said. “It’s important we pay attention to these individual body metrics so we can take a more personalized approach to managing any potential or observed muscle decline in our patients."

The study also notes that the personal health effects of sarcopenia may have a wider impact, as they could affect long-term health care planning for patients, families, caregivers and insurance providers. However, by assessing and diagnosing sarcopenia early on with the 30-second chair rise test, patients may be able to maintain muscle strength and physical function, ultimately allowing them to lead healthier, more independent lives. Enhancing quality of life for this population may also mitigate some of the detrimental social effects of global aging, such as an increased demand for health care services, worker shortages and increasing health care costs.

The findings of this study further OMNI’s mission to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. Through interdisciplinary research and innovative approaches, OMNI aims to improve the quality of life for individuals across all age groups.

July 3, 2024
Staff reports