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The Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health’s (ISEH) Research Fellow Dr Jo Blodgett, together with Dr Snehal Pinto Pereira, Professor Mark Hamer and Manchester Metropolitan University Professor Rachel Cooper, conducted research that investigated whether balance ability tracked from childhood to adulthood. Led by Dr Blodgett, the authors wanted to find out if children with poor balance ability when they were 10 years old were at greater risk of poor balance in midlife. 

The 1970 British Cohort Study consists of 17 000 individuals born in one week in 1970, who have been studied their entire lives. The study team measured their ability to stand on one leg at age 10 and 46 as well as their ability to walk in a backwards straight line (toe to heel) at age 10. 

The authors found that balance ability tracks strongly from childhood through to midlife. Compared to those with strong balance at age 10, the outcome revealed that those with poor balance ability were 7x more likely to have poor balance at age 46. The findings are consistent with evidence indicating that postural strategies are fully developed by early adolescence and therefore identifies an important period for early intervention.   

Dr Blodgett said: Current physical activity guidelines recommend balance exercises for adults aged 65+ only. The strong continuity of balance from childhood to adulthood shown in this study highlights that we must consider interventions at earlier ages as well. 

Read the published paper in Pediatrics.