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The 10-Second One-Legged Balance Test
A 10-second test to see if you have double the risk of dying.

Foot to Calf for 10 Second Test
Foot to Calf for 10 Seconds

Sometimes the simplest test can give you tremendous feedback. The Thumb-Palm test can help spot an aortic aneurysm. The 30-Second Chair Stand Test can help rate your endurance and lower-body strength. And the Push-up test can predict heart attack risk.

I want to share one of the quickest tests I’ve ever used. It’s the 10-second One-Legged Stance Balance Assessment. It almost takes longer to say than do.

After testing and tracking 1,702 people for over ten years, researchers found that the ability to stand and balance on one leg was a remarkable predictor of mortality.

Here’s how to test yourself.

You can attempt this with either leg, whichever you feel most comfortable with. Clear the area around where you’re going to test. Make sure there’s nothing you can fall into or on to injure yourself, like a coffee table, night stand or other objects.

Stand on a flat surface. Keep your arms at your side.

While keeping one foot on the ground, you will touch the TOP of the unsupported foot to the LOWER, BACK part of the leg you’re balancing on.

(The technical instructions say, “barefoot participants were instructed to place the dorsal part of the non-support foot on the back of the opposite lower leg, as naturally as possible.")

You can see that position in the photo.

Look straight ahead, don’t look down at your feet or up at the ceiling. Make sure that someone is in front of you to help prevent a potential fall or injury. You might also want someone behind you for extra protection.

Now you begin to count to 10 seconds. You’re allowed three attempts. To score, you’re either rated a YES you can make it 10 seconds or NO you can’t.

Over the 12 years the study was conducted, 123 people died from various causes. The participants were between the ages of 51 and 75. The surprise finding was those who could not balance for just 10 seconds were much more likely to pass away. They had an 84% increased risk of death from any cause.

Keep in mind that was after other factors that could have contributed to death such as age, gender and other health conditions were considered.

An average of twenty percent of the people who attempted the test failed. That number rose with age, doubling about every five years. A breakdown by age showed about five percent of people between 51 and 55 failed, eight percent of 56 to 60 year-olds failed, 18 percent of 61 to 65 year-olds failed, and 37 percent of 66 to 70 year-olds failed. More than half the people between the ages of 71 and 75 could not complete the test.

Balancing on one foot puts several things in play. You have to think quickly to make minor adjustments. You need good eyesight to maintain a focal point. Your muscles must be strong enough to support yourself on a single leg, and you need coordination. As any of those abilities diminish, you’re more likely to slip or fall accidentally.

We stand on one leg when we put on pants, climb in or out of a tub and when climbing the stairs. Estimates are that between 30 and 60 percent of elderly individuals fall each year. Many people experience multiple falls.

In 2020, the National Safety Council documented 41,250 deaths from falls, with 36,360 of those people aged 65 and older. Falls are the number one preventable cause of death for people 65 or older.

Determining who is prone to a fall is critical. If we can identify who’s at risk, we can help them improve core strength, stability and lower that risk.

Previous studies have shown that people who could not stand on one leg for more than 20 seconds were more prone to microbleeds and “silent” strokes. This test can’t predict or diagnose a specific problem, but it can put a health care provider on notice that there may be issues.

The test results were so striking and the requirements so simple, that the researchers suggested it should be included “as part of routine physical examination in middle-aged and older adults.”

Can you balance for 10 seconds?

Reference Links:

Successful 10-second one-legged stance performance predicts survival in middle-aged and older individuals

Claudio Gil Araujo, Christina Grüne de Souza e Silva, Jari Antero Laukkanen, Maria Fiatarone Singh, Setor Kunutsor, Jonathan Myers, João Felipe Franca, Claudia Lucia Castro
British Journal of Sports Medicine, 10.1136/bjsports-2021-105360 on 21 June 2022.

Click Here for the Study


One-leg balance is an important predictor of injurious falls in older persons

B J Vellas 1, S J Wayne, L Romero, R N Baumgartner, L Z Rubenstein, P J Garry
British Journal of Sports Medicine, PMID: 9180669 DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1997.tb01479.x

Click Here for the Study


Association of Postural Instability With Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline

Yasuharu Tabara, Yoko Okada, Maya Ohara, Eri Uetani, Tomoko Kido, Namiko Ochi, Tokihisa Nagai, Michiya Igase, Tetsuro Miki, Fumihiko Matsuda and Katsuhiko Kohara
American Heart Association Journal Stroke, 18 Dec 2014 https://doi.org/10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006704Stroke. 2015;46:16–22

Click Here for the Study

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