A research team lead by Dr.Yasuharu Tabara, Associate professor from the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan has found that “The ability to stand on one leg is a sign of brain health and cognition and struggling to stand on one leg for less than 20 seconds is associated with an increased risk of cerebral small vessel disease”. Cerebral small vessel disease is a group of pathological processes with various aetiologies that affect the small arteries, arterioles, venules, and capillaries of the brain that leads to a stroke. Cerebral small vessel disease also leads to loss of motor coordination, including balance, as well as cognitive impairment.
In a study by Dr.Tabara, 841 women and 546 men participants at an average age of 67 years were made to stand with one leg raised up and eyes open for up to 60 seconds. This one leg standing exercise was performed twice, the duration of standing time for each individual was measured and the better of the two was used for analysis. Participants were then evaluated using brain magnetic resonance imaging for cerebral small vessel diseases such as lacunar infarction and microbleeds.
The analysis of one leg standing time correlated with the magnetic resonance imaging data after adjusting the variations between the subjects concluded that people with more microbleeds and lacunar infarctions in the brain had shorter one-legged standing times. Shorter one-leg standing times were also independently linked with lower cognitive scores since impairment of motor coordination and cognition is associated with the cerebral small vessel disease. The risk of cerebral small vessel diseases increases with age.
Tabara and team also found out that one-leg standing time is shorter for patients of age 60 and above which further suggest the link between the cerebral small vessel diseases and age. Hence this study for the first time proved the ability to stand on one leg as a simple test for the detection of onset of cerebral small vessel diseases like lacunar infarction and microbleeds which do not show early symptoms.
The original paper can be accessed here.