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Standing Up May Not Be So Simple

Practical Movement Series Part One

“Let’s head around the corner for the next exercise, Marty.” I turned around and headed across the fitness floor at the Duke Center for Living, set up our equipment, and waited. The moments passed and I continued to wait. Finally, I walked back around the corner to see Marty trying his hardest to stand up from the low training table we had been sitting on. “This is why I signed up to work with you!” Marty exclaimed as he flailed his arms about trying to gain momentum. “This is what it’s like when I try to stand up from my easy chair!”

Marty had just moved to Fearrington Village, and this was our first appointment together. He said he didn’t have any limitations I should be concerned about at our initial meeting. I learned quickly that we had different definitions for what constituted a limitation.

Practical Movement One: The Sit-to-Stand (Squat)

The Sit-to-Stand is exactly what it sounds like: Rising from, and sitting down to a chair. One must be able to stand and sit from the dinner table, from a motor vehicle, from bleachers at an event, and from the toilet. Standing up and sitting down is arguably the one task that separates those who are independent from those who are dependant to some degree. If one cannot rise from a chair, one is confined to that chair.

To perform the Sit-to-Stand correctly, stand tall with your feet hip width apart and toes pointing straight ahead about six inches in front of a sturdy chair. Push your hips back behind you and bend your knees until your rear end touches the seat of the chair. Your heels should stay flat on the floor and your knees should not extend in front of your toes. From here, squeeze the muscles in your rear end and return to a tall standing position. Make sure to breathe deeply and continuously.

The Sit-to-Stand can be practiced every day. Do however many feels right to you. After you master the Sit-to-Stand from a basic chair try squatting down to lower objects, however low you feel comfortable. Always practice with proper form so as to ingrain good motor patterns that will translate to the avoidance of injury when the move is performed in daily life.

Marty reported back a few months later, after I had prescribed that he practice his Sit-to-Stands every morning on the edge of his bed. “It’s so much easier now – I don’t even have to use my hands!” He proceeded to rattle off a few repetitions using a chair nearby to show off his newfound confidence, with a big grin on his face. I couldn’t help but smile, too.

By Jared Rogers
Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer
Duke Center For Living at Fearrington