Can YOU stand on one leg for 10 seconds? You’re at twice the risk of dying early if you can’t balance like a flamingo in your 60s, scientists warn
- Researchers found those who can’t stand on one leg were 84% more likely to die
- Those who failed test were more likely to suffer from heart disease and diabetes
- The ‘flamingo test’ could be used in health checks as guide on risk of death
Middle-aged people who can’t balance on one leg are twice as likely to die early, scientists say.
Researchers in Brazil, who assessed 2,000 people aged 50 to 75, found that those who couldn’t stand on one leg for 10 seconds were 84 per cent more likely to die within the next decade than those who completed the exercise.
The ‘simple and safe’ balance test can spot people with poorer health — with those struggling to complete the activity more likely to suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The ‘flamingo test’ could be used in routine health checks for older adults to provide ‘useful information’ on their risk of death, the team said.
Researchers in Brazil, who assessed 2,000 people aged 50 to 75, found that those who couldn’t stand on one leg for 10 seconds were 84 per cent more likely to die within the next decade than those who completed the exercise. The ‘flamingo test’ could be used in routine health checks for older adults to provide ‘useful information’ on their risk of death, the team said
After accounting for age, sex, and underlying health conditions, those unable to stand unsupported on one leg for 10 seconds were 84 per cent more likely to die from any cause within the next decade. The graph shows the chance of survival among those who completed the 10-second one-leg challenge (blue line) and those who failed it (red line)
Unlikely aerobic fitness, muscle strength and flexibility, balance is usually reasonably well preserved until people are in their sixties — from which point it deteriorates.
Balance checks are not routinely included in health checks for older people, which the researchers said is down to a lack of a standardised test to measure it.
There is also limited data on how balance is linked with health, other than an increased likelihood of falls.
To find out whether a balance test could act as an indicator of health, the team, from Exercise Medicine Clinic CLINIMEX in Rio de Janeiro, studied the results of an earlier study.
The research, which began in 1994, recruited 1,702 people in Brazil who underwent various fitness tests, including standing on one leg for 10 seconds without any support.
To ensure all participants did this in the same way, they were asked to place the front of one foot on the back of the opposite lower leg while keeping their arms by their side and their gaze fixed straight ahead.
Researchers also gathered data on their weight, waist size and blood pressure. Volunteers were monitored for seven years, on average.
The results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, show that a fifth of participants were unable to stand on one leg.
The rate increased with age, with just five per cent of 51 to 55-year-olds failing the task, compared to 54 per cent of 71 to 75-year-olds.
Some 123 people died over the course of the study.
The scientists spotted no clear trends in the cause of death between those able to complete the test and those who weren’t able to do so.
However, after accounting for age, sex, and underlying health conditions, those unable to stand unsupported on one leg for 10 seconds were 84 per cent more likely to die from any cause within the next decade.
Those who failed the test also tended to have poorer health. A higher proportion were obese, had heart disease, high blood pressure and unhealthy blood fat profiles.
And type 2 diabetes was three-times as common in this group.
The researchers noted that all participants were white Brazilians, so the findings might not apply to other ethnicities and nations.
And information on factors that could influence balance, such as volunteers’ recent history of falls, their physical activity levels, diet, smoking and use of drugs was not available.
However, the researchers noted that the 10 second balance test ‘provides rapid and objective feedback for the patient and health professionals regarding static balance’.
They said it ‘adds useful information regarding mortality risk in middle-aged and older men and women.’
HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY BALANCE?
There are some simple balance exercises that can be done at home to help improve health and mobility.
The NHS recommends doing balancing exercises at least twice a week.
A. Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent.
B. Step sideways in a slow and controlled manner, moving one foot to the side first.
C. Move the other to join it.
Avoid dropping your hips as you step. Perform 10 steps each way or step from one side of the room to the other.
This involves walking sideways by crossing one foot over the other.
A. Start by crossing your right foot over your left.
B. Bring your left foot to join it.
Attempt 5 cross-steps on each side. If necessary, put your fingers against a wall for stability. The smaller the step, the more you work on your balance.
A. Standing upright, place your right heel on the floor directly in front of your left toe.
B. Then do the same with your left heel. Make sure you keep looking forward at all times. If necessary, put your fingers against a wall for stability.
Try to perform at least 5 steps. As you progress, move away from the wall.
A. Start by standing facing the wall, with your arms outstretched and your fingertips touching the wall.
B. Lift your left leg, keep your hips level and keep a slight bend in the opposite leg. Gently place your foot back on the floor.
Hold the lift for 5 to 10 seconds and perform 3 on each side.
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