(WXIN) – Older adults who can’t balance on one leg for more than 10 consecutive seconds may have an increased risk of death within seven years, a new study suggests.
The study, the results of which were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, was conducted by a team of global researchers who examined 1,072 subjects between the ages of 51 to 75 in Brazil. Participants were asked to remove their shoes and socks, stand on one foot, and place the dorsal (or top part) of the opposite foot on the back of the opposite lower leg. They were then instructed to balance on that foot, arms at their sides, for 10 seconds.
The subjects were allowed three attempts at the test, which researchers dubbed the 10-s OLS, or 10-second one-legged stance.
Due to the flamingo-style stance participants were asked to assume, multiple media outlets also began referring to the 10-s OLS as the “Flamingo test,” or the “Flamingo challenge.”
The results of the initial test determined that inability to balance on one leg increased with age: Of the 1,072 subjects, 53.6% of those aged 71 to 75 were unable to complete the 10-s OLS, while only 4.7% of 51 to 55-year-olds were unable.
Researchers followed up with participants seven years later and found that 123 total members of the study group, or around 7%, had died “mostly due to cancer (32%), cardiovascular causes (30%), diseases of the respiratory system (9%) and COVID-19 complications,” according to the study.
“The proportion of deaths in the NO group was higher than that in the YES group,” the study’s authors added. More specifically, 17.5% of those who couldn’t complete the initial test were among those who died within seven years, while only 4.6% of those who successfully completed the initial test had died.
Researchers noted that those who failed the initial assessment were more likely to be of older age and/or overweight, and three times more likely to have diabetes. The study also noted that older adults, especially those who are overweight, are more prone to falls, which are the “second leading cause of unintentional injury-based deaths worldwide.”
Overall, the results indicated that middle-aged or older adults who were unable to balance on one foot for 10 seconds had an 84% higher risk of “all-cause mortality.”
The authors noted, however, that the study had a number of limitations, one of which was the fact that participants were largely white and belonged to a “higher socioeconomic strata in Brazil.”
“Any extrapolation of these findings to populations distinct from this profile should be interpreted with caution,” the researchers wrote.