New study finds balancing test could foreshadow early death

Jun 25, 2022
A new study finds that balance is linked to death. Source: Getty

A recent study has found that over 50s who have bad balance could be at risk of dying of any cause, within the next 10 years.

The study titled, Successful 10-second one-legged stance performance predicts survival in middle-aged and older individuals, involved an assessment of 1702 people, aged between 51 and 75.

The test required participants to stand on a stable, flat surface and balance on either their left or right foot for a minimum of 10 seconds, keeping their arms relaxed and tucked into their sides while focusing on one spot.

Source: @dorset_eye/Twitter

The test, involving 68 per cent of men, had 20.4 per cent of the participants fail, unable to balance on either foot for 10 seconds. Researchers found that failure to complete the assessment got worse with age “practically doubling at each subsequent 5-year age-group intervals beginning at 51–55 years”.

The study involved a follow-up of participants, seven years after the test, finding that 7 per cent of participants had died, with the group who didn’t complete the test have significantly more deaths than those that could balance.

With no underlying health issues, researchers didn’t find a clear cause of death saying the majority of deaths were “mostly due to cancer (32%), cardiovascular causes (30%), diseases of the respiratory system (9%) and COVID-19 complications (7%)”.

The data found that the majority of participants unable to balance on one leg for 10 seconds was roughly 5 per cent among those aged 51–55s; 8 per cent for 56–60, just under 18 per cent in the 61–65 range and around 37 per cent for 66–70.

Participants aged 71–75 were found to be 11 times more likely to fail compared to those just 20 years younger.

Maintaining balance is essential as we age, as indicated by health and Fitness Expert, Jane Kilkenny who says “research shows that 1 in 3 Australians over the age of 65 suffer a fall each year and 30% of these falls require medical attention”.

“Like many other aspects of health, our balance deteriorates with age, unless we take positive steps to avoid these changes. Our fitness, muscles, bones and joints all begin to decline as part of the ageing process but we can prevent this with the appropriate training. Fitness and strength are keys to maintaining our balance, and incorporating specific balance exercises will enhance your success,” she said.

Kilkenny said on top of exercise, being open about balance struggles is imperative to overcoming the problem.

“Falls risk is not something to be embarrassed about. Far too often we see individuals avoid seeking help until the problem is quite severe because they don’t want to discuss it with family and friends. The best course of action is being open and honest, having those conversations so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent falls from becoming a problem in the first place,” she said.

“Exercising with family and friends is a great option because you multiply the benefits and enjoy some quality time together. It provides the physical benefits of exercise to improve your fitness, strength and balance. You also enjoy the mental health benefits including improved concentration, cognitive function and an increased feeling of wellbeing and happiness.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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