Standing on one leg for 10 seconds and your health

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Experts say that the older you get, the harder it can be to stand on one leg. Westend61 / Getty Images
  • Researchers say that the ability to stand on one leg for at least 10 seconds can be an indicator of your overall health.
  • They say a lack of balance can be a sign of major health problems.
  • Other indicators such as traction and walking speed are also related to overall health.

Failure to stand on one leg for 10 seconds could mean an increased risk of death over the next decade, according to a new study.

As we age, our flexibility and balance diminish. The balance began to be more difficult in the early 1950s and could drop quickly.

Equilibrium problems increase the risk of falls, which is worrying, as falls are the second leading cause of death from unintentional injuries worldwide, according to World Health Organization. More than 37 million falls are severe enough to require medical attention each year.

Balance tests are usually not included in annual examinations, even for the elderly. This may be due to the lack of standardized tests and interpretation of the results, according to researchers in today’s study.

However, they say that not being able to stand on one leg for 10 seconds could mean a higher risk of death from any cause for the next 10 years.

“Equilibrium must be included in the vital signs test,” Anatoly Lyubetsky, PT, Ph.D., CSCS, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at New York University, told Healthline. “This is one indicator of many indicators of a person’s general health.”

The recent study included 1,702 participants aged 51 to 75 with an average age of 61. About two-thirds of the participants are men.

The researchers asked the participants to stand on one leg. The front of the free leg rested on the back of the opposite lower leg. Their hands were on their sides and their eyes were straight ahead.

Participants were allowed up to three attempts and were allowed to use each leg.

About 20% of the participants failed to complete the task, and this number increases with age:

  • 5 percent of participants between 51 and 55 failed
  • 8 percent of those between 56 and 60 failed
  • 18 percent of those between the ages of 61 and 65 failed
  • About 37 percent of those between 66 and 70 failed
  • 54 percent of participants between 71 and 75 failed

After taking into account age, gender and basic health conditions, the inability to stand with one leg for 10 seconds is associated with an 84% increased risk of death from all causes for an average follow-up period of 7 years.

“It’s important to remember,” Lyubetsky said, “that the study established a connection, not a causal connection.”

“Usually a person in their 50s should be able to balance on one leg for about 40 seconds. Someone in the 60’s looks at 20 seconds, and someone in the 70’s is about 10 seconds, “Lyubetsky continued. “Static balance is a multidimensional problem and has many causes, such as neurological diseases, orthopedic problems, vision, spatial problems, sedentary lifestyle, reaction time, knowledge and other health problems. If it’s difficult to balance on one leg, you need to think about your overall health and fitness. ”

Those who failed had a higher proportion of people with obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure or an unhealthy blood fat profile. Type 2 diabetes is three times more common in this group.

Many factors can cause balance problems.

“Balance can be affected by spinal stenosis, pinched nerves or radiculopathy,” said Dr. Clifford Sigil, a neurologist at Providence St. John’s Health Center in California. “Long-term alcohol use can also cause balance problems due to atrophy of the cerebellum. Problems with the inner ear can also cause balance problems related to dizziness, vertigo or a feeling that the world is spinning.

The recent study was for observation only, so scientists have not identified a cause and effect.

The researchers said the balance test provided valuable feedback to patients and health professionals on the risk of mortality.

“Although the study does not show a direct causal link, it appears to indicate another possible tool that physicians can use to help patients advise patients about their overall health,” said Dr. Adam Rivadeneira, a primary care physician. medical care, he told Healthline. “Such tools for measuring the symptoms of depression, sleep, walking speed and falls are useful for monitoring patients.

In 2010, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a review of studies examining simple daily tasks and the risk of mortality:

  • 14 studies looked at the strength of traction and found that mortality in the weakest people was 1.67 times higher than in the strongest group
  • Five studies looked at walking speed and showed that the slowest mortality rate was 2.87 times faster than the fastest group.
  • Five studies examining how long it takes people to get up from a chair have found that the slowest have almost twice the death rate of the fastest group.

Researchers reviewing the studies show that a possible link is that these tasks are indicators of overall health. Those in poor health would have more difficulty than those in good health.

“It is essential to identify health problems that could negatively affect the balance and correct them if possible,” Rivadeneira said. “If the patient is healthy, balance can be improved with practice or focused physical therapy to improve strength, endurance and coordination.

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