Can you balance on one leg?

Apr 13, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

Never underestimate the importance of balancing on one leg when in an upright position.

For those sixty and over (well any age when you think about it), how many can do a single-leg balance for 20 -30 seconds or longer without falling over? To add to the challenge how many can perform this with your eyes closed? Maybe hold onto something when you try this for the first time.

After a shower, I stand on one leg while bringing the opposite knee up to chest level to dry my feet and my balance is great. Going to the gym regularly has been a blessing. Once you get the knack of it, for a bigger challenge, try standing on one leg when you are cleaning your teeth. Then try it again and close your eyes at the same time. Doing all three at once is difficult. Once I close my eyes it is hard to maintain balance and not fall to the side. Make sure you alternate from one leg to the other.

Surprising benefits

Standing on one leg is a sign of good health and getting better at standing on one leg can add to fitness and potentially added lifespan according to research. It helps with lower body strength and stability, particularly the muscles that support your knees, crucial for long-term balance and coordination. It helps reduce the risk of missteps or falls. Around 37.3 million falls per year worldwide are severe enough to require medical attention.

For the over 70, there’s also evidence to show standing on each leg for one minute three times a day can help improve hip bone mineral density. Stronger hip bone mineral density means if you do fall you are less likely to fracture.

All this translates to improved performance in everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs, putting on pants, stepping into the bathtub, and stepping over obstacles. The single-leg balance helps ensure we can support our body during all these movements by improving joint stability and strengthening muscles around joints in the lower body to build resilience for daily movements.

Inability to balance

Sometimes all it may take is practice. However, evidence has shown that the inability to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer in otherwise healthy people may be linked to an increased risk of small blood vessel damage in the brain and a reduced ability to understand ideas.

You are less likely to be able to stand on one leg without a wobble if you have a multitude of medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke or Alzheimer’s disease. Pregnancy, menopause, the diagnosis of disease and retirement can also alter our strength and balance and ability to stay upright, mostly because of the way these affect our ability and motivation to engage in regular physical activity.

How to do the single-lag balance exercise

  • Stand next to a chair or wall or in between a doorway in case you are unsteady.
  • Lift one leg off the floor, bending it behind you. If you’re not steady on your feet, use one hand to hold on to the chair, wall, or doorway.
  • Keep the knee of your standing leg straight.
  • Try to balance for up to 30 seconds.
  • Then rest for up to 10 seconds, if you need to.

Can you balance on one leg? 

  • Repeat the exercise 6 to 8 times, and then switch to the other leg.
  • When you can balance for 30 seconds on one leg with your eyes open, try to balance with your eyes closed.
  • If you can easily do this exercise with your eyes closed for 30 seconds, you could try to challenge yourself further by doing the exercise while standing on a pillow, if that feels safe.

Some soreness or discomfort may be expected. Stop doing an exercise if you have increased pain. If anyone has health issues I would not attempt anything unless speaking with your doctor first.

I have been testing myself with this simple exercise for years and still, there are days I am a little wobbly.

Good luck

Acknowledgments & References:

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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