Scientists propose balance test to assess health. Understand

Can you balance on one foot for 10 seconds? Middle-aged and elderly people who cannot successfully perform the pose are more at risk of dying within a decade compared to those who can, according to an international study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Over 12 years – between 2008 and 2020 – scientists evaluated 1,702 people aged between 51 and 75 to understand the relationship between balance and longevity.

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They asked participants to remain on one foot for 10 seconds without any additional support. Then the test was standardized with the volunteers having to put the free foot behind the leg while extending the arms to the sides of the body, looking fixedly ahead. They had only three attempts and 21% of the volunteers failed.

In the following decade, 123 participants died of various causes. After adjusting for factors that could influence the results, such as age, sex and underlying conditions, the researchers calculated that an inability to balance for 10 seconds in the position is associated with an 84% higher risk of death over the next 10 years.

The researchers explain that maintaining balance requires muscle strength, coordination, vision and quick thinking. Previous studies have linked the ability to sit and get up off the floor as another health indicator for older people.

The research, led by physician Claudio Gil Araújo, from the Clinic of Exercise Medicine (Clinimex), in Rio de Janeiro, included specialists from Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Finland.

The scientists note that the study is observational and cannot establish a cause, but suggest that a balance test be included in routine examinations of older adults.

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