The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to late life predicted earlier death than for those who could, University of Sydney research showed, as the authors of the study called for the test to be part of a routine health check. for old people.
Participants were instructed to place the front of their 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.
The researchers sampled 1,702 participants, aged 51 to 75, two-thirds of whom were men.
About one in five people, or 348 people in the group, failed the test.
After taking into account age, sex and underlying conditions, researchers found that the inability to stand unsupported on one leg for 10 seconds was associated with an 84% increased risk of death, whatever the cause, over the next decade.
The proportion of deaths among those who failed the test was significantly higher, the researchers said, at 17.5% versus 4.5%.
According to the study, which was conducted jointly with the Clinimex Medicina do Exercicio in Brazil, the proportion of people unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds was almost 5% among people aged 51 to 55; 8% for 56–60 year olds, just under 18% for 61–65 year olds and almost 37% for 66–70 year olds.
More than half of people aged 71 to 75 failed to pass the test, meaning people in this age group were 11 times more likely to fail than those just 20 years old. less.
Unlike aerobic fitness and muscular strength and flexibility, balance tends to be reasonably well preserved until the sixth decade of life.
However, once people hit 50, their balance begins to decline relatively quickly, the researchers said.
Despite this deterioration, balance assessment is not routinely included in health checkups for middle-aged and older men and women.
Researchers thought this was likely because there were no standardized tests for balance.
This was compounded by a lack of hard data linking balance to clinical outcomes other than falls, they said.
The researchers concluded that the 10-second balance test “provides rapid and objective feedback to the patient and healthcare professionals regarding static balance.”
The test, they said, added “useful information regarding mortality risk” in middle-aged and older men and women.
Anyone who had pre-existing problems with their gait was not included in the sample, according to the study.
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