Over the course of a decade, nearly 2,000 people took part in the study. Based on the findings, researchers propose that it be included in routine examinations of the elderly.
If you have trouble balancing on one leg - the mythical four - be aware that this could be a sign of something serious going on in your body. According to a new study, middle-aged and elderly people who cannot balance on one leg for 10 seconds have nearly twice the chance of dying in the next ten years as those who can.
The ability of a person to balance themselves appears to provide insight into the state of their health. Previous research, for example, has linked the inability to balance on one leg to an increased risk of stroke, while others have linked poor balance to mental decline (and dementia).
An international team of researchers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Finland, and Brazil recently completed a 12-year unpublished study in which they investigated the relationship between balance and mortality. Despite the fact that the investigation relied heavily on observation and that the cause could not be determined, the results were impressive.
The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in midlife or later is linked to a nearly doubling risk of death from any cause after ten years, according to the findings. The findings, which were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, are so serious that the researchers, led by Claudio Gil Arajoa, a Brazilian researcher at the Exercise Medicine Clinic, propose that a balance test be included in health screenings for the aged.
Unlike aerobic fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility, balance is relatively easy to maintain until the sixth decade of life, after which it begins to decline rapidly. However, balance assessment is rarely included in examinations for the elderly, possibly due to the lack of a standardized version.
A total of 1,702 people between the ages of 51 and 75 with stable gait were followed between 2008 and 2020. Participants were initially asked to stand on one leg for 10 seconds without any additional support. To standardize the test, they were instructed to place the front of their free foot on the back of the opposite leg, arms at their sides, and gaze straight ahead. Three attempts on each foot were permitted.
In the end, one in every five people (21%) failed the test. 123 people died from various causes over the next decade. After controlling for age, gender, and underlying conditions, the inability to stand on one leg without support for 10 seconds was associated with an increased risk of death from any cause of 84%. The researchers acknowledged that the study had limitations, including the fact that the participants were all white Brazilians, which means that the findings may not be widely applicable to other ethnicities and nations.
The researchers concluded, however, that the 10-second balance test "provides a quick and objective feedback to the patient and health professionals regarding static balance" and "adds useful information relative to the risk of mortality in middle-aged and older men and women."
Read the full study here: