A new study suggests that your balance talents can predict the likelihood of death. The Brazilian study shows that individuals who are middle-aged or older and can’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds are more likely to die in the next seven years than those who can.
Doctors have been testing balance as a measure of health for many years, so these findings are not particularly surprising. We know that balance is one of the first things to decline as we age – and the study participants proved this. Most who were older than 70 couldn't last 10 seconds standing on one leg. But regardless of age, weight, sex, and health, what the study makes clear is that inability to sustain the balance test is linked to nearly double the death rate, with an 84 percent higher risk of dying during the seven-year study period.
Does lack of balance actually lead to death?
Not specifically. Although we know that falls are the second biggest cause of accidental death (after traffic accidents), and poor balance and falls often go hand in hand. What’s more, when older people suffer a fall, the lack of mobility and ongoing issues born from broken bones can often spiral until their death.
However, this recent study didn't identify falls as a specific cause of death. Most of the study participants who died during the study died as a result of cancer, heart disease, or respiratory diseases.
The ability to stand like a flamingo relies on a degree of balance. But what's equally critical is strength. If you have the leg strength to balance like a flamingo, you likely have a good amount of overall strength – and there is plenty of evidence to show that strength cuts the risk of early death.
is focusing on improvED balance REALLY worthWhile?
Definitely. The American Heart Association names balance-based training as one of the four types of exercise that everyone should be doing (the others are strength, endurance and flexibility). On top of the potential life-lengthening benefits, balance training can build strength, improve postural control, assist in injury training, as well as increase your power and athleticism.
How to improve your balance – ballerina style
For anyone keen to better their balance (and enjoy the strength and postural benefits of increased stability), practicing your Dancer’s Pose is a smart move.
When you master the Dancer’s Pose, it does much more than simply arm you with poise and grace. The Dancer’s Pose helps you to improve physical and mental coordination and at the same time enhances concentration. This yoga pose is great for strengthening the lower body, abdominals and lower back; it also strengthens the stabilizing muscles around the joints.
How to do the Dancer’s Pose
- Start in Mountain Pose (standing with your shoulders back, chest up, and arms hanging beside your torso)
- Focus your eyes forward to one point
- Reach your palm out and up to catch the inside of the foot as you lift it up behind
- Inhale and reach your other arm overhead – steady yourself by keeping your knees together and your abdominals braced
- Exhale, press your foot and hand together and lift your knee towards the back wall
- Suspend the chest forward by bending from the hips, not your waist.
Once you’re in Dancer’s Pose
- Stand tall on your standing leg and strongly squeeze your thigh
- Lengthen your back thigh away from your groin and reach your back foot upwards
- Open and rotate your shoulders so that they face forwards, lift your chest and ensure your hips remain parallel by keeping your back knee facing the floor
- Reach energetically along your front arm
- Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling through the nose.
If you’re keen to build your balance, it’s a great idea to regularly practice yoga moves such as the Dancer’s Pose (and its cousin the Tree Pose). But that doesn’t mean busting out a one-off yoga move at any opportunity you can.
"It's a good idea to make sure that any specific yoga move is done as part of a wider yoga sequence," recommends Les Mills Creative Director Kylie Gates. "By working through a series of yoga poses that flow together, you can ensure your spine and muscles are suitably warmed, which is key to getting the most from each pose and reducing the risk of injury.”
During a BODYBALANCE™ workout, moves such as the Dancer's Pose are incorporated in balance-building sequences of yoga moves, and with a certified instructor guiding you, there's plenty of opportunity to perfect your technique.