Can a Simple Balance Test Predict How Long You’ll Live?
Those who failed this 10-second test had a higher risk of later death. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
Longevity may be the most important trend we’ve ever experienced. It’s driven by — and in turn, it affects — everything from health to housing, money to technology, lifestyle to social policy. There’s so much to be aware of — and it’s just getting started! Now you can keep up with all the latest developments in this weekly column.
Try this test. Stand on one foot (use either foot). Place the front of your free foot around the back of the foot that’s on the floor. Hold your arms to the sides and look straight ahead.
Hold the position for 10 seconds. If you can’t do it at first, give yourself three tries.
Simple, right? But an international team of researchers believes that success or failure could be a predictor of longevity.
The researchers, led by Dr. Claudio Araujo of the Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, used data from an exercise study set up in 1994 that looked at the connection between ill health, death and measures of physical fitness and exercise.
As reported here, they collected data on 1,700 Brazilians, ages 51 to 75, between 2009 and 2020. Only people who had a stable gait were included. After taking into account differences in age, sex and underlying health conditions, those who failed the balance test had an 84 per cent higher risk of death from any cause in the subsequent decade.
The researchers concluded that the 10-second balance test should become part of routine health checks for all middle-aged and older adults.
Digging deeper into the findings:
- About one in five failed the test. Not surprisingly, failure was more likely with age, roughly doubling at five year intervals from age 51 on
- Failure rates by age
- 5 per cent of the 51-55 year old group
- 8 per cent of the 56-60 year old group
- 18 per cent of the 61-65 year old group
- 37 per cent of the 66-70 year old group
- 54 per cent of the 71-75 year old group
- Over an average seven-year follow-up, 7 per cent of the participants had died, with a heavier concentration among those who had failed the test
It’s logical, of course, that the balance test failure rate would go up with age (as would the number of later deaths). But if there’s a noticeable difference in risk of death within a given age range, and if that difference reflects to some degree the pass/failure of the test, it’s an interesting observation, at minimum. And perhaps the balance test will become a routine part of future health checkups, serving as a possible flag to other issues.
David Cravit is a Vice-President at ZoomerMedia, and Chief Membership Officer of CARP. He is also the author of two books on the “reinvention” of aging. You can check out some of his other writing here.
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