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Balancing for a Longer Life

Ronnie Schultz, a 66-year-old who lives in Manhattan, finds creative ways to work on her balance daily. She believes that balance is the key to living a longer, more fulfilling life, a theory that is now backed by science. New research shows that an inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in later life nearly doubles the risk of death from any cause within the next decade.

The findings were published in June by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The researchers found that the proportion of deaths was nearly four times higher among those who couldn’t complete the balance test as compared to those who could.

During the study, researchers observed participants and their ability to complete a balance test for seven years. One in five participants failed to balance on one leg for 10 seconds at their initial screening. Over 50% of the patients between the ages of 71 and 75 were unable to complete the test compared to 5% from ages 51 to 55.

This association between being unable to balance and higher risk of death is consistent when other factors are considered, such as sex, age, BMI or health conditions including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease.

While the study did not examine cause and effect, it did expose a correlation between balance and lifespan.

“People should test their balance like they check their blood pressure,” says Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo, principal investigator of the study and dean of research and education at the Exercise Medicine Clinic, CLINIMEX, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “In many situations in your daily life, you have to stand on one leg. To get into the car, to get up and down stairs. You’re balancing on one foot and then the other.”

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