What a 10-Second Balance Test Says About Your Lifespan

Failing test may indicate increased risk of death
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2022 11:51 AM CDT
Research Links Balance to Longevity in Older Adults
Stock photo.   (Getty/Wavebreakmedia)

(Newser) – Medical researchers have identified a striking correlation between balance and longevity, per NBC News, citing a study published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers tracked 1,700 adults ages 51 to 75 for 12 years. During regular checkups, participants were given three chances to balance on one foot for 10 seconds. Those who failed turned out to be almost twice as likely as others to die within a decade. Researchers didn't identify the exact reasons for why balance is such a strong indicator, but older people and those in poorer health (such as those who suffer from obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions) tended to fail the test more often.

Previous research could add some context. For example, older adults face high risk of injury due to falls, which are an increasingly common cause of death for people over 75. "Remember that we regularly need to stay in a one-legged posture, to move out of a car, to climb or descend a step or stair, and so on," notes Dr. Claudio Gil Soares de Araujo, an expert in sports medicine based in Brazil and the study's lead author. On the bright side, Araujo says "it is never too late to improve balance by specific training," and just a couple of minutes of exercise daily can help. However, per the Independent, falls aren't the only problem, as previous studies have also found links between balance and the risk of stroke and the onset of dementia.

Researchers warn that the study involved only white Brazilians, so results may vary among other ethnicities, but it still points to the need for medical providers to include balance tests in routine physicals, which isn't always common practice. Per the Telegraph, Araujo says, "The 10-second balance test provides rapid and objective feedback for the patient and health professionals ... [and] adds useful information regarding mortality risk in middle-aged and older men and women." (Read more balance stories.)

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