(Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels)

Is better balance the key to a longer life? Middle-aged people who can’t stand on one leg for 10 seconds are nearly twice as likely to die within a decade, according to new research. Scientists in Brazil say the simple and safe balance test should become part of a routine health check for older adults. Unlike aerobic fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility, balance tends to stay relatively steady until someone reaches their 50s, then it starts to wane rapidly. However, testing for balance isn’t a normal part of regular health checks for middle-aged people, possibly because there is no standardized test and there is little hard data linking it to injuries or disease beyond falling, the researchers say. A team from Clinimex Medicina do Exercicio wanted to know whether a balance test might be a reliable indicator of a person’s risk of death from any cause within the next decade and whether the test should therefore be part of routine health checks. They used participants from the CLINIMEX Exercise study, set up in 1994 to assess links between various measures of physical fitness and the risk of ill health and death from cardiovascular problems. The current study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, included more than 1,700 participants between 51 and 75 years-old (average age 61) at their first check-up, between February 2009 and December 2020. Around two-thirds (68%) were men.