According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, middle-aged people who cannot stand on one leg for at least 10 seconds appear to be at a higher risk of dying within the decade.
Researchers found that volunteers who struggled with the simple balancing test were 84% more likely to die over the next 10 years than those who could stand without support, after taking into account variables such as age and disease. The findings come from a fitness and health study of 1,702 people over the age of 50 in Brazil, from 2009.
Participants were asked to lift one foot and place it behind the opposite leg – without touching the ground – while keeping their arms by their sides and facing forward. They got three attempts. One in five failed the test, usually those who were older or in poorer health.
According to researchers from Brazil, Finland, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, adding an element of balance to routine physical examinations for older people could provide doctors with important information about health. More than 680,000 people die each year from falls worldwide, and the 10-second test can be easily used to help identify those who may be vulnerable, the researchers said.
“The test has been remarkably safe, well received by participants, and most importantly, simple to integrate into our routine practice as it takes less than 1 or 2 ~CHECK~ minutes to apply,” they concluded. It also gives quick and objective feedback to patients and healthcare professionals, they said.
People tend to maintain their ability to balance until they reach their 60s, when it begins to decline rapidly.
In the study, the proportion of deaths among those who failed the test was significantly higher, at 17.5%, than among those who passed, at 4.5%. The researchers found no increased risk of a specific cause of death related to balance.
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