People who can’t stand on one leg in later life are at increased risk of death within seven years, according to a new study.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, asked just over 1,700 people aged between 51 and 75 to stand on one leg for at least ten seconds.

They found that people who were unable to do so were nearly twice as likely to die within the next ten years.

The researchers said the study shows that a flamingo-style balance test should be included in mid-life health check-ups.

Can you do the Flamingo? The ability to stand on one leg may say a lot about how long you are likely to live. Ciara and Shane tested it out in studio this morning. pic.twitter.com/F7YOLAST3y

— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) June 22, 2022

While the study was observational and did not suggest that the ability to stand on one leg was directly responsible for the increased cause of death, its findings were striking.

The researchers first took various medical details form all participants and then asked them to stand on one leg for ten seconds without support.

To standardise the test, participants were asked to keep their arms by their sides and place their free foot against on the back of the opposite lover leg.

They were permitted up to three attempts on either foot.

In all, around one-in-five were unable to complete the test – with people less likely to be able to do it, the older they were.

The participants were then monitored for an average period of seven years.

In that time, 123 people – 7% of the total – died:

  • 32% died of cancer
  • 30% died of cardiovascular disease
  • 9% died of respiratory disease
  • 7% died of COVID-19 complications

While there were no temporal trends or differences in the causes of the deaths, the proportion of deaths was significantly higher among those that failed the balance test.

The study found that 17.5% of those that failed the test had died compared to just 4.5% among those that passed it – an absolute difference of just under 13%.

The researchers noted that people who failed the test generally had poorer health – with a higher proportion of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and unhealthy blood fat profiles.

They warned that one limitation of the study was the fact that all participants were white Brazilians.

As a result, “the findings might not be more widely applicable to other ethnicities and nations”.