A recent study found that standing on one leg for 10 seconds was independently associated with survival and that those unable to perform this test had double the usual risk of premature death. This relationship is an association and not causal – meaning, the test cannot predict when someone will die. It does, however, highlight the importance of monitoring and maintaining balance as we age. Good balance later in life can lower fall risk and help maintain independence, mobility, functional abilities, and overall quality of life.
According to Corey Rovzar, an expert in balance a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the School of Medicine, balance is often overlooked in most people’s exercise regimes and is not regularly included in routine health checks for middle-aged and older adults. This study highlights the importance of monitoring and maintaining balance as you age since balance tends to decline most rapidly beginning in your 60s – and this decline can lead to faulty biomechanics and/or falls. The good news is that you can improve your balance through training! This could be as simple as standing on one leg while you brush your teeth, performing single-leg exercises, or engaging in activities such as tai chi and yoga. Strength training is also important, especially for the lower body, because stronger muscles allow you to have greater stability as you move and to move at an ideal speed. The key to any exercise program is consistency – find something that you enjoy and stick with it!