This simple 10-second balance test can tell if your risk of dying is double

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

The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to old age is linked with an almost doubled risk of death.

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

According to the researchers, this simple and safe balance test could be included in routine health checks for the elderly.

Balance typically remains fairly well preserved until the sixth decade of life, when it begins to deteriorate relatively quickly, the researchers say, in contrast to aerobic fitness, muscle strength and flexibility.

However, balance assessment is not routinely included in health checks of middle-aged and elderly men and women. This is likely due to the fact that there is no standardized test for this and there is little hard data linking balance to clinical outcomes other than falls.

Scientists, therefore, wanted to find out if a balance test could be a reliable indicator of a person’s risk of dying from any cause within the next decade and, as such, might merit inclusion in routine health checks at an older age. .

Researchers drew on participants in the CLINIMEX Exercise cohort study. This was established in 1994 to evaluate associations between various measures of physical fitness, exercise-related variables, and conventional cardiovascular risk factors, with disease and death.

The current analysis included 1702 participants aged 51 to 75 (an average of 61) at the first checkup, between February 2009 and December 2020. About two-thirds (68%) were men.

We took the weight and various measurements of the thickness of the skin fold plus the waist. History details were also provided. Only those with stable gait were included.

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

To improve test standardization, participants were asked to place the front of the free foot on the back of the opposite lower leg, keeping their arms at their sides and staring straight ahead. Up to three attempts on both feet were allowed.

In all, about 1 in 5 participants (20.5%; 348) failed the test. The inability to do so has increased with age, more or less doubling at successive 5-year intervals from the age of 51-55 onwards.

The percentages of those who were unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds were: nearly 5% between the ages of 51 and 55; 8% between 56 and 60 years; just under 18% between the ages of 61–65; and just under 37% between the ages of 66 and 70.

More than half (about 54%) of people aged 71 to 75 were unable to complete 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 a mean monitoring period of 7 years, 123 (7%) people died: cancer (32%); cardiovascular disease (30%); respiratory diseases (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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