single leg stance test death

This 10-Second Physical Test Could Determine Your Risk of Death

Give it a shot to see how you stack up.

Your balance is tied to your longevity, a new study claims. Those unable to stand on one leg for at least 10 seconds reportedly have an increased risk of dying within seven years, per researchers. 

The study, published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, leveraged data culled from 1,700 Brazilians aged 51 to 75 and was aimed at finding mortality risks in middle-aged people.

For this single leg stance test, study participants were asked to take off shoes and socks and place the front of their free foot on the back of their opposite leg, keeping their arms at their sides and their head straight. The time they were able to maintain balance in this position was recorded, and each individual was given three attempts. 

Only one in five participants was able to complete 10 seconds, the standard minimum set by researchers. Failure rate increased with age: 95 percent of 51 to 55-year-olds were able to maintain a single leg stance for at least 10 seconds, while 92 percent of 56 to 60-year-olds were able to succeed.

That dipped to 72 percent success for 61 to 65-year-olds and it dropped further to 63 percent of 66 to 70-year-olds. A staggering 54 percent of those aged 71 to 75 were not able to maintain a single leg stance for 10 seconds. 

The study drew commonalities among those unable to complete the single leg stance, including that they tended to be overweight and more likely to have diabetes. The research then tracked the participants for seven years before checking in.

A Surprising Correlation

After that time had elapsed, 123 of the participants had died, that sum representing about 7 percent of the group. About 18 percent of the people who passed away had failed the single leg stance test, while about 5 percent of the deceased passed it. 

With comorbidities and other factors accounted for, researchers surmised that an inability to complete the single leg stance test for 10 seconds was associated with an 84 percent increased risk of death in the subsequent seven years. 

While your ability to stand on one leg isn’t itself an indicator of impending death, it’s a simple diagnostic test that the researchers feel beneficial in routine health examinations in all middle-aged patients. The reason? It’s believed to be an indicator that other potentially fatal systemic issues may be lurking. 

How to Do a Single Leg Stance Test

  1. Stand upright, with your feet together, and your hands down at your sides. Have a stable object within reach, should you become unsteady during the test.
  2. Lift one foot off the ground. Keep the bottom of that lifted foot at least 12 inches off the ground. Keep your arms down at your sides and fix your gaze straight ahead.
  3. Count the seconds you’re able to stand in this one-legged position without lifting your arms or lowering your raised foot to the ground. 
  4. Repeat the test three times and take the average of the three times to receive your score.

What’s a Single Leg Stance Test Normal Score?

Your time varies based on your age. Here’s about where men should be, per this paper published in a scientific journal

  • 18 to 39-year-olds should be able to average 43 seconds
  • 40 to 49-year-olds should be able to average 40.3 seconds
  • 50 to 59-year-olds should be able to average 37 seconds
  • 60 to 69-year-olds should be able to average 26.9 seconds
  • 70 to 79-year-olds should be able to average 18.3 seconds
  • 80 to 99-year-olds should be able to average 5.6 seconds