Dear Doctor: What about the 10 second balance test you see so often in the news? Is there some science behind it, or is it just a meme?
Dear Reader: The balance test you are referring to sounds simple.
For those unfamiliar, this test associates the ability to balance on one leg for at least 10 seconds with improved odds of longer life. It’s the centerpiece of a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and has been in the spotlight since it was published last June.
An international team of researchers analyzed health data from 1,702 participants aged 51 to 75. To participate in the study, participants had to be stable on their feet. At the start of the 12-year study, each person made three attempts to stand on one leg for his 10 seconds with his hands at his sides. 20% were unable to complete the task, and researchers noted that failure rates increased with age. It has also been proven that people who cannot balance have more health problems than those who can. increased incidence of disease, unhealthy blood lipid levels, and obesity were included. has been shown to almost double.
If it takes less than 10 seconds to balance on one leg, don’t panic. This test is not intended to predict longevity. Rather, the results of this study add to our understanding of how balance plays an important role in maintaining good health. More than 800,000 adults in the United States are hospitalized each year for fall injuries. The fall itself is usually not fatal. However, complications from injuries and time spent in bed increase the risk of disability, respiratory or other infections, and cognitive decline. Each of these can significantly reduce life expectancy.
The study also points to balance as a useful tool for assessing someone’s general physical condition. Loss of balance is common in older people, but researchers say the loss of balance actually begins in middle age, starting around the age of 50. Adding a balance test to the annual physical exam may provide early warning of musculoskeletal weakness.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to work on improving your balance. Physical activities such as yoga, tai chi, martial arts, and dance all require special attention to balance. Weight training can help because strength is an integral part of balance. Geriatric centers often offer exercise classes tailored to older people who have limited range of motion. Adults who are at risk of falling should seek medical guidance in choosing balancing activities.
Eve Glazier, MD, MBA, is an internist and Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Please send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of emails, we are unable to respond personally.