As we age, we slowly lose strength in our limbs. Muscles shrink and lose mass, which also means they aren’t as strong as they used to be. If you watch older people getting up out of chairs you can frequently see them using their arms to help themselves rise. This is like a subconscious power assist – most people aren’t even aware of it as they start losing strength in their legs because our bodies naturally help us out.
However, when we use our arms to assist, it means that our legs lose even more strength because they have less to do. The more they atrophy the more we need assistance to rise. It creates a vicious cycle of weakness leading to further weakness. The American Orthopedic Association recognizes this, stating:
Many of the changes in our musculoskeletal system result more from disuse than from simple aging.
Today’s challenge is to notice how you get up from sitting. Do you use your leg, core and glutes, or are you starting to rely on a little bit of cheating from your hands and arms? If you find yourself using your arms on the chair, on your legs or on your desk to help push you up, try changing your ways! Spend today with your arms relaxed by your sides each time you get up off a chair or a sofa.
If not, congratulations! You are young and spry! Keep up the good work.
Advanced challenge! Try sitting on the floor and see if you can make your way to standing without using your arms to push against the floor or parts of your body. Bonus points for coming up smoothly and gracefully and not relying on momentum to propel you up. This exact movement has been used as a test to successfully predict life expectancy!