Does your ability to stand on one leg predict your risk of dying soon?

Some docs say well being checks for older folks ought to embrace the “flamingo stability take a look at”, asking folks to stand on one leg for 10 seconds – however the connection between stability and well being is unclear


22 June 2022

By Clare Wilson
How vital is the ability to stand on one leg?Shutterstock/BazDil
People who’re middle-aged or older and might’t stability on one leg for 10 seconds are extra probably to die within the subsequent seven years than those that can do it, in accordance to a examine out this week. What is the reason, and may folks practise standing on one leg at dwelling? This is what the science says:
What did the examine examine?
People aged between 51 and 75 have been requested to stand on one leg for 10 seconds, with one foot touching the calf of the opposite leg – a bit like a flamingo. Those who couldn’t do that had a better fee of dying through the subsequent seven years than those that accomplished it: 17.5 per cent versus 4.6 per cent. The examine concerned about 1700 folks primarily based in Brazil, most of whom have been white.
Could the findings be associated to different components, fairly than unwell well being?
They may. For occasion, folks have a tendency to worsen at passing this stability take a look at with age, and in case you are older, you’re extra probably to die. Most of those that have been over 70 have been unable to full the take a look at. But when the outcomes have been adjusted for components corresponding to age, weight, intercourse and unwell well being, they nonetheless confirmed that individuals who couldn’t move the stability take a look at had almost double the demise fee, with an 84 per cent larger risk of dying through the examine interval.
Why would docs ask folks to do that take a look at?
Seeing if folks can stand on one leg has lengthy been used to take a look at stability. Falls are a significant killer of older folks, often as a result of in the event that they fall over, they might break a hip and want surgical procedure, with some by no means regaining their former mobility. “It generally is a spiral,” says David Stensel at Loughborough University, UK. 
So have been the deaths on this examine associated to falls?
It isn’t clear how a lot falls contributed to the deaths of the 123 contributors who died through the examine, if in any respect. The important causes of demise have been most cancers, coronary heart illness and respiratory ailments, together with covid-19. Falls and restoration from surgical procedure may have contributed to some of these deaths – for instance, individuals who develop into motionless may see their coronary heart illness worsen – however such components weren’t recorded.

How else may stability be linked to demise fee?
The ability to stand on one leg relies upon not simply on stability, but in addition on leg energy, which is linked to total physique energy and bodily health, says Stensel. People who’ve coronary heart illness or most cancers, say, have a tendency to be much less energetic and so would lose leg energy. “It may simply be that ability to stability is linked with energy within the legs, which is linked with total energy and health,” he says.
Are the findings shocking?
Previous analysis has discovered that related exams can provide clues about our well being. For occasion, larger demise charges from coronary heart illness in older folks correlate with gradual strolling velocity, in a take a look at the place they have been requested to stroll 6 metres as quick as doable. Overall demise charges are additionally linked with folks’s ability to stand up from sitting on the ground. Perhaps extra surprisingly, risk of demise additionally correlates with a poor grip energy, the place somebody is requested to squeeze a testing gadget as laborious as they’ll, in accordance to a number of research.
Should docs begin asking folks to do the take a look at?
The researchers, led by Claudio Gil Araujo at Clinimex train drugs clinic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, say of their paper that there can be “potential profit to together with the take a look at as half of routine bodily examination in middle-aged and older adults”. It is “easy to incorporate in routine apply because it requires lower than 1 or 2 minutes”, they are saying. But in international locations such because the UK the place well being providers are already stretched, busy household docs could not have time.
How can I enhance my stability?
Because it could be total health and physique energy that has effects on the hyperlink between passing the flamingo stability take a look at and risk of demise, this examine doesn’t present that making an attempt to enhance stability may make it easier to stay longer. In older adults, in all probability muscle energy is an important health aim, says Stensel. “We have all solely bought a lot time within the day.”
But folks with higher stability are much less probably to fall over, says Uzo Ehiogu, a spokesperson for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy within the UK. If you need to enhance your stability, physios advise older folks to do easy workouts corresponding to strolling in a line as if they’re on a tightrope – or standing on one leg.
Journal reference: British Journal of Sports Medicine, DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-105360
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