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The health insight flamingos can give us

Flamingos all stood around a pond

One of the most recognisable traits of the vibrant flamingo is its fondness of standing on one leg. You may wonder what the link is here, i.e. with bright pink, exotic birds and feet issues, but bear with me.

Recently, I read that taking the stance of a flamingo could give you an insight into the measure of your mobility, your general health—and even your life expectancy. The article suggested a quick, 10-second balance test could reveal a great deal about your physical health.

The study invited participants aged 51 to 75 to stand upright on one leg, arms by their sides, like a flamingo. They were given three attempts to do so. When the people conducting the study analysed the data and, accounting for existing medical issues, gender, etc., they concluded that 84% of those who failed the test were at risk of dying within the following seven years.

That’s sounds shocking, doesn’t it?

Knowing I was going to write about this study, I tried the test myself. I wobbled a lot, but I managed to do it on the second attempt.

Person Balanced

As we’ve said before, many people take their mobility and their posture for granted, without realising how much both have a knock-on effect on their overall health. If you were unable to move around easily, for example, it would be much harder for you to burn calories and you are at greater risk of putting on weight. Extra weight can lead to other health issues, such as diabetes and heart problems—so maybe there is something in the science.

When I did the flamingo test, I did it with colleagues who are both twenty years younger than me…it was clear that I found it more difficult than them. I achieved better balance when I could outstretch my arms to counter any swaying, but this wasn’t what the test required; your arms have to be by your side. My experience wasn’t a surprise—ageing can have a negative effect on your core strength, and by the time we reach middle-age, certain bones may have become compacted, which can result in your gait favouring one side more than the other, ultimately affecting your natural balance. There are different types of gait, and each type puts more pressure on different areas of your skeleton/frame.

Of course, as we get older, balance becomes more important. If you find it difficult to balance properly, you’re more prone to falls, which can result in broken bones and a lot of pain. Certainly, when in their seventies and eighties, many people feel frail and at risk of falling because their core strength has diminished. The impact of this is that they become afraid to go out of their home, in case they trip, which can have a negative impact on their mental health, too.

As you can see, good posture and good balance will serve you well as you age. You don’t have to become a weightlifter or bodybuilder to maintain good core strength—you don’t even have to go to a gym.

The following are all examples of simple exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home with a bit of floor space.

  • Sit-ups

  • Laying on your back, legs straight, holding your feet off the ground a few inches

  • Sitting on your bottom, bending your legs, lifting your feet off the ground a little, and twisting slightly from side to side

  • Any type of ‘plank’ exercise

When we say simple, we don’t mean they’re easy exercises—at first, you may find them quite difficult—but simple in the sense that you could try them this minute; you don’t need to spend any money on fancy equipment or special clothing.

When you look at the make-up of a flamingo, it’s quite surprising that their skinny pink legs can support the rest of their bodies, more so when they only use one of them. Similarly, our feet and legs are incredible support structures for the rest of our body, and we should all endeavour to take great care of them.


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