Jun 29, 2022 - Health

The "flamingo test" for longevity

Illustration of a flamingo's legs in a one-legged pose.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

🦩 Want to live longer? Strike a flamingo pose.

Why it matters: Yes, you read that right. Balance is a strong indicator of our overall health — and keeps us from falling and hurting ourselves, especially as we get older.

  • In a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers asked people between the ages of 51 and 75 to balance on one leg with their heads up and their arms at their sides for 10 seconds.
  • 20% of them failed. When the scientists followed up after seven years, those who had failed the test were 84% more likely to have died than those who had passed.

The one-legged pose is key because we encounter it all the time in our lives, such as when we step out of cars or climb stairs.

  • Remember: Falling is the leading cause of injury-related death once we cross 65 years old.

Try the flamingo test! If you're struggling with it, here are some simple ways to improve your balance.

  • Practice, practice, practice. Start trying to balance on one leg while holding a chair or leaning against a wall for support. Then work your way to a free-standing position.
  • Walk or jog. It strengthens your legs and your core. And as we've reported, for those over the age of 60, walking just 7,000 steps a day can dramatically lengthen life.
  • Bike. If you're able, biking is an even more effective way to find your balance than walking, jogging or running, per Harvard Medical School.
  • Practice tai chi. This ancient Chinese martial art can be light on the body and excellent for balance. There are often reasonably priced group classes at local parks or senior centers.
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