This simple 10-second balance test can tell if your risk of death is doubled

Balancing on One Leg

Balance on one leg

According to a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicinethe inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds is associated with an almost double risk of dying over the next 10 years.

The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to late life is linked to a nearly doubled risk of death.

A near doubling of the likelihood of dying from any cause over the next 10 years is associated with the inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to late life. This is according to new research results published on June 21, 2022 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

This simple and safe balance test could be included in routine health checkups for older people, researchers say.

Balance generally remains fairly well preserved until the sixth decade of life, when it begins to deteriorate quite rapidly, the researchers say, unlike aerobic fitness, muscle strength and flexibility.

However, balance assessment is not routinely included in health checkups for middle-aged and older men and women. This may be because there is no standardized test for it, and there is little hard data linking balance to clinical outcomes other than falls.

The scientists therefore wanted to know whether a balance test could be a reliable indicator of a person’s risk of death from any cause over the next decade and, as such, could therefore be worthy of consideration. be included in routine health checkups later in life.

The researchers relied on participants in the CLINIMEX Exercise Cohort Study. This was set up in 1994 to assess the associations between various fitness measures, exercise-related variables and conventional cardiovascular risk factors, with poor health and death.

The current analysis included 1,702 participants aged 51 to 75 (an average of 61) when they were first examined, between February 2009 and December 2020. About two-thirds (68%) were men.

Weight and several measurements of skinfold thickness and waist circumference were taken. Details of medical history were also provided. Only those with stable gait were included.

As part of the control, participants were asked to stand on one leg for 10 seconds without any additional support.

To improve the standardization of the test, participants were instructed to place the front of the free foot on the back of the opposite lower leg, while keeping their arms at their sides and their gaze fixed straight ahead. Up to three attempts on each foot were allowed.

In total, around 1 in 5 participants (20.5%; 348) did not pass the test. The inability to do so increased with age, more or less doubling at 5-year intervals starting at age 51-55.

The proportions of people unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds were: nearly 5% among 51-55 year olds; 8% among 56-60 year olds; just under 18% among 61-65 year olds; and just under 37% among 66-70 year olds.

More than half (about 54%) of people aged 71 to 75 could not take the test. In other words, people in this age group were more than 11 times more likely to fail the test than those just 20 years younger.

During an average surveillance period of 7 years, 123 (7%) people died: cancer (32%); cardiovascular diseases (30%); respiratory disease (9%); and[{” attribute=””>COVID-19 complications (7%).

There were no clear temporal trends in the deaths, or differences in the causes, between those able to complete the test and those who weren’t able to do so.

But the proportion of deaths among those who failed the test was significantly higher: 17.5% vs 4.5%, reflecting an absolute difference of just under 13%.

In general, those who failed the test had poorer health: a higher proportion was obese, and/or had heart disease, high blood pressure, and unhealthy blood fat profiles. And type 2 diabetes was 3 times as common in this group: 38% vs around 13%.

After accounting for age, sex, and underlying conditions, an inability to stand unsupported on one leg for 10 seconds was associated with an 84% heightened risk of death from any cause within the next decade.

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. As participants were all white Brazilians, the findings might not be more widely applicable to other ethnicities and nations, caution the researchers.

And information on potentially influential factors, including recent history of falls, physical activity levels, diet, smoking, and the use of drugs that may interfere with balance, wasn’t available.

Nevertheless, the researchers conclude that the 10-second balance test “provides rapid and objective feedback for the patient and health professionals regarding static balance,” and that the test “adds useful information regarding mortality risk in middle-aged and older men and women.”

Reference: “Successful 10-second one-legged stance performance predicts survival in middle-aged and older individuals” by Claudio Gil Araujo, Christina Grüne de Souza e Silva, Jari Antero Laukkanen, Maria Fiatarone Singh, Setor Kwadzo Kunutsor, Jonathan Myers, João Felipe Franca and Claudia Lucia Castro, 21 June 2022, British Journal of Sports Medicine.
DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-105360

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