Life is all about balance.
Middle-aged people who cannot balance on one leg for 10 seconds are at a dramatically increased risk of dying within seven years, a new study has found.
Researchers asked 1,702 Brazilians between the ages of 51 and 75 to undergo the brief physical test and subsequently tracked their health over the following years.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on Wednesday, asserts that the simple test should be included during a person’s annual physical as it provides “useful information regarding mortality risk in middle-aged and older men and women.”
As part of the so-called “flamingo test,” each participant was asked to stand barefoot on one leg while keeping their other leg raised in the air, as though mimicking one of the hot-pink birds. They were also required to keep their head upright and their arms straight at their side for the 10-second duration.
Of the 1,702 participants, 20% were unable to complete the test.
Unsurprisingly, the test became harder with age. Just 5% of participants between the ages of 51 and 55 failed the flamingo test, with the number rising to 54% for people between the ages of 71 and 75.
In addition to older age, however, those who failed the test were more likely to be overweight and were three times as likely to have diabetes, the researchers found.
After an average follow-up time of seven years, 7% of the participants had passed away. Tellingly, 17.5% of people who failed the test were among those who had died, compared to just 5% of those who managed to pass the test.
The researchers concluded there was an “84% higher risk of all-cause mortality” for people unable to complete the flamingo test, “even when other potentially confounding variables such as age, sex and BMI … were taken into account.”
“We regularly need … a one-legged posture, to move out of a car, to climb or to descend a step or stair and so on. To not have this ability or being afraid in doing so, it is likely related to loss of autonomy and, in consequence, less exercise and the snowball starts,” study author Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo, of the Exercise Medicine Clinic CLINIMEX in Rio de Janeiro, told CNN.
The study attracted widespread attention on social media, with people taking to Twitter to share their thoughts.
“Easily passing the flamingo test. Looks like you’re all stuck with me for another 7 years,” one cocky Twitter user gloated.
However, others claimed the test was too generalized and didn’t account for a variety of nuances that were likely to affect results.
“How many people with MS and many other medical issues are looking at the flamingo test and laughing. A lot of us haven’t been able to do that for yrs and we’re still here,” a skeptic wrote.