Standing on one leg to estimate mortality risk - healing practice

Link between balance and life expectancy

According to a recent study, when middle-aged people can no longer stand on one leg for a period of ten seconds, their risk of death in the next ten years is almost twice as high.

The study, which involved experts from the University of Sydney, looked at whether standing on one leg for 10 seconds was a predictor of mortality. The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

More than 1,700 people took part in the study

The researchers' analysis included 1,702 participants aged 51 to 75 when first examined between February 2009 and December 2020, with the average age being 61. 68% of the participants were men.

The team measured participants' weight, skinfold thickness and waist circumference. In addition, participants provided information about their medical history. In the end, only people with a stable gait were included in the study.

How was the balance test performed?

During the study, experts asked participants to stand on one leg for ten seconds.

To help standardize the test, participants were instructed to place the front of their free foot on the back of their opposite lower leg while keeping their arms at their sides and looking straight ahead. In total, all participants had three attempts per foot.

Balance is maintained for a long time

Unlike aerobic fitness, muscle strength and mobility, balance is maintained relatively well until the sixth decade of life before declining quite rapidly, the researchers explain in a press release.

The study showed that around one in five participants (20.5%) were unable to pass the balance test. The inability to pass the test increased with age, doubling approximately every five years from age 51 to 55, the team reports.

Overall, nearly five percent of participants aged 51 to 55 could not stand on one leg for ten seconds. It also affected 8% of participants aged 56 to 60, 18% of those aged 61 to 65, and nearly 37% of those aged 66 to 70.

More than half (about 54%) of people between the ages of 71 and 75 failed to pass the test, the researchers continue to report. In other words, in this age group, the probability of not passing the test was more than eleven times higher than in people 20 years younger.

Causes of premature death of participants

During the average observation period of seven years, 123 participants (seven percent) died. According to the researchers, the cause of death was cancer in 32% of cases, cardiovascular disease in 30%, respiratory disease in 9% and COVID-19 complications in 7%.

There was no difference in causes of death between those who were able to take the test and those who were unable. There were also no clear temporal trends in the deaths that occurred, the team adds.

However, the proportion of deaths among those who failed the test was significantly higher. 17.5% of those people died, while only 4.5% of those who passed the test died, experts report.

Health issues present in the study

According to the researchers, participants who were unable to complete the test were generally in poorer health. For example, a higher proportion were obese and/or suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid profiles.

Additionally, participants who could not stand on one leg were about three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes (38% vs. 13%), according to the research team.

84% increased risk of death within ten years

Ultimately, the research found that the inability to stand on one leg unaided for 10 seconds was associated with an 84% increased risk of dying from any cause over the next decade, a said the team.

Balance test as standard exam

The researchers point out that the Ten Second Balance Test provides quick and objective feedback to people and healthcare professionals on static balance. In addition, the test also provides useful information regarding mortality risk in middle-aged and elderly men and women. (as)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Claudio Gil Araujo1, Christina Grüne de Souza e Silva, Jari Antero Laukkanen, Maria Fiatarone Singh, Setor Kunutsor, et al. : Successful performance in the 10-second one-legged position predicts survival in middle-aged and older individuals; in: British Journal of Sports Medicine (published 21/06/2022), British Journal of Sports MedicineBMJ: Inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid and late life linked to risk of near death dubbed (posted 06/21/2022), BMJ

Important Note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.