The study involved 1,702 people of age 51 to 75 live in Brazil, who were asked to balance on one leg without support during an initial checkup. The researchers told the participants to place the front of the free foot behind the standing leg, keep their arms at their sides, and their eyes fixed in front of them. Up to three attempts on both feet were allowed.
Being able to balance on one leg is important for older people for a variety of reasons, and also reflects broader levels of fitness and health, said study author Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo at the Clinic of Medicine. of the Exercise – CLINIMEX – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“We regularly need … a one-legged posture, to get out of a car, go up or down a step or ladder, etc. autonomy and, consequently, less exercise and the snowball starts, “he explained.
Poor balance and longevity
Study participants had an average age of 61, and two-thirds of them were men. About 1 in 5 failed to balance on one leg for 10 seconds at the initial check.
The researchers tracked the participants after the initial follow-up for a seven-year period, during which time 123 – 7% – of the people studied died. The death rate among those who failed the test (17.5%) was significantly higher than the deaths among those who were able to maintain balance for 10 seconds (4.5%).
The study found that for those who were unable to complete the balance test there was an 84% greater risk of death from any cause. and this link remained even when other factors included age, gender, BMI, and pre-existing health conditions or risks such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes – have been taken into consideration.
However, the researchers were unable to include other variables in their analysis such as recent history of falls, pattern of physical activity, exercise or sports practice, diet, smoking, and drug use that can interfere with balance.
The research was observational and reveals no cause and effect. The study did not examine the possible biological mechanisms that could explain the link between poor balance and longevity.
Dr Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said the research is interesting but not definitive.
“Since a standing leg requires good balance, linked to brain function, good muscle strength and good blood flow, it likely integrates the muscular, vascular and brain systems, so it’s a global test of future mortality risk, albeit crude. “said Sattar, who was not involved in the study.
“If someone can’t do 10 seconds and is worried, they should think about their health risks,” he said.
“They might try to make positive lifestyle changes like walking more, eating less if they realize they could do better – the most underrated importance of lifestyle for health,” she said. “But they could also see their doctor if, for example, they haven’t measured risk factors for cardiovascular disease or other chronic conditions like diabetes.”
Overall, according to the study, those who failed the test had worse health and included a higher percentage of people who were obese and / or with heart disease, high blood pressure, and unhealthy blood fat profiles. Type 2 diabetes was also more common among those who did not complete the test.
The study took place between 2009 and 2020 and was part of a larger research project that began in 1994.
The inability to complete the balance test increased with age, more or less doubling at successive 5-year intervals by the 51-55 age group and come on. More than half (approximately 54%) of study participants aged 71 to 75 were unable to complete the test, compared with 5% in the younger age group who could not.
There were no clear trends in deaths, or differences in causes of death, between those who were able to complete the test and those who were unable to.
Araújo said balance could be significantly improved with specific training, and this was something he worked on with patients involved in a medically supervised exercise program. However, she said she did not yet have the data to assess whether improved balance affected longevity.
If you want to test your ability to balance on one leg for 10 seconds, Araújo advised that it is best to stay close to a wall or table or another person for support.