Could this 10 second balance test determine the longevity of your life?
For adults who fall in the older age bracket, being able to balance briefly on one foot may predict how long they’ll live.
People who failed the 10-second balance test, which involves standing on one foot were nearly twice as likely to die in the next 10 years, according to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Unlike aerobic fitness, flexibility and muscle strength, balance tends to be preserved until the sixth decade of life. After that, balance tends to wane quite quickly.
Exactly why a simple balance test can predict risk of death is not yet known, said the study’s lead author, Dr Claudio Gil Soares de Araújo.
Poor balance and poor muscular fitness can be linked with frailty in older adults. “Aged people falling are in very high risk of major fractures and other related complications,” Araújo wrote.
“This may play a role in the higher risk of mortality.”
Checking balance on one foot, even for those few seconds, can be valuable way to determine someone’s risk of falling.
How does balance predict longevity?
To explore whether a balance test might reveal insight into a person’s risk of death from any cause during the next decade, Araújo and his team reexamined data from the 1994 CLINIMEX Exercise cohort study.
This study assessed associations between physical fitness, cardiovascular risk factors, and the risk of developing poor health and dying.
For the new report, the researchers focused on 1702 participants from ages 51 to 75 with the average age being 61. At their first study checkup, when weight, waist size and measures of body fat were collected.
The researchers included only people who could walk steadily in their analysis.
At the first checkup, participants were asked to stand on one leg for 10 seconds without holding onto anything to support themselves.
The participants were allowed three tries and were asked to place the front of the uplifted foot on the back of the weight bearing leg, while keeping their arms by their sides and their gaze fixed straight ahead.
Overall, one in five failed the test with researchers noting inability to pass the test rose with age.
In general, those who failed the test were in poorer health than those who passed, with a higher proportion being obese, having cardiovascular disease and unhealthy blood cholesterol levels.
Type 2 diabetes was three times more common among people who failed the test as those who passed.
After accounting for factors such as age, sex, BMI, history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, the researchers found that the risk of death within 10 years was 1.84-fold higher in participants who failed the balance test.
The good news, Araújo said, is “it is never too late to improve balance by specific training. A couple of minutes a day - at home or in a gym could help a lot,” he continued.
During a physical, doctors typically check people’s hearts, lungs, cholesterol and blood pressure, but usually don’t measure what shape they’re in. If a doctor can determine if a patient has balance issues a program can be issued to improve overall fitness and wellbeing.