For the elderly, being able to balance for a while with one foot can predict how long they will live.
People who fail a 10-second balance test for standing on one leg are almost twice as likely to die in the next 10 years, according to a report published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In contrast to aerobic fitness, flexibility and muscle strength, balance tends to be maintained until the sixth decade of life, after which it decreases sharply, the Brazilian researchers noted.
The exact reason why the loss of balance can predict the risk of death is not yet known, said the lead author of the study, Dr. Claudio Gil Soares de Araújo, Sports and Exercise Physician and Director of Research and Training at Exercise Medicine Clinic-CLINIMEX in Rio. De Janeiro.
But poor balance and musculoskeletal fitness can be linked to weakness in the elderly, Araújo wrote in an email.
“Falling seniors are at a very high risk of serious fractures and other related complications,” Araujo wrote. “This may play a role in the higher risk of mortality.”
Checking the balance on one foot, even for those few seconds, can be a valuable way to determine the risk of someone falling. A 2019 report found that the number of deaths from falls for people aged 75 and over was on the rise in the US
“Remember that we have to regularly stand with one foot, get out of a car, go up or down a step or a ladder and so on,” Araούjo said.
Araújo and his colleagues have previously researched the relationship between mobility and longevity. A 2016 study found that the ability of people to sit on the floor and then get up without using their arms or knees for support could predict the risk of death over the next six years.
How does balance predict longevity?
To investigate whether a balance test could reveal the risk of a person dying from any cause over the next decade, Araújo and his team reviewed data from the 1994 CLINIMEX Exercise cohort study, which assessed correlations between fitness, cardiovascular risk factors and the risk of ill health and death.
For the new report, the researchers focused on 1,702 participants aged 51 to 75 – average age 61 – in their first study study, when weight, waist size and body fat measurements were collected. The researchers included only people who could walk steadily in their analysis.
During the first test, participants were asked to stand on one leg for 10 seconds without holding anything to support themselves. Participants, who were allowed three attempts, were asked to place the front of the food on the back of the weighted leg while keeping their hands on their sides and their eyes fixed straight on the front.
Overall, one in five failed the test.
The researchers noted that the inability to pass the test increased with age. In general, people who failed the test tended to have worse health than those who passed, with a higher rate of being obese, having cardiovascular disease and unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. Type 2 diabetes was three times more common among people who failed the test than those who failed.
After taking into account factors such as age, gender, BMI, history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, the researchers found that the risk of death within 10 years was 1.84 times higher in participants who failed the test. balance.
The good news, Araujo said, is “it’s never too late to improve your balance with a specific workout. “A few minutes a day – at home or at the gym could help a lot.”
Studies like this provide a scientific basis for deciding on the types of measurements that will help assess how well a person is doing physically, said Dr. John W. Rowe, professor of health policy and aging at Columbia Mailman University School of Public Health. . .
During a physical condition, doctors usually check people’s hearts, lungs, cholesterol and blood pressure. But for the most part, they do not measure what form people are in, Rowe said.
If a doctor finds that a patient has balance problems, a program can be prescribed to help improve fitness and balance.
“And if the doctor asks the patient to do the one-legged posture and the patient says, ‘How good is this,’ the doctor can say that there is an article showing that this can predict life expectancy.” said Rowe.