To improve our balance we need to think of ourselves as athletes. What do athletes do to improve their abilities in a specific sport? They train. Standing on one leg is a great way to test our balance and also train our balance system.
This is really the simplest way to improve or maintain good balance. It is especially helpful to train your somatosensory system and your eye-brain connection. It will improve the strength in your ankle, knee and hip, as well as your posture.
When seniors stand on one foot, they are usually amazed at home much movement there is in the ankle joint. Your foot is getting feedback from the ground through the sensors in your tendons. This input is processed with your vision input and results in a combined effort to keep you stable and upright.
How to do it
First remove your shoes and stand in your stocking feet about 3 feet from a wall. Place a post it note at eye level on the wall and gaze at that spot. Stand on one leg with your knee bent to 90 degrees. Place your arms across your chest with your hands touching your shoulders and do not let your legs touch each other.
If your legs touch each other, your foot moves along the floor, your foot touches down, or your arms move from your starting position, start again.
Try 3 times on each side and average your total on each side and choose the best. Here is how others have performed on this test.*
As you can see from the chart above, even among healthy adults, our ability to balance on one leg diminishes over time. This is especially true after 50 years old. You can see just how important training and practicing balance is as we age.
This is why I always recommend leg strengthening and balance exercises as some the most important thing seniors can do on a regular basis. At 62 years old, I practice balance at least 4 times per week at the gym.
Here are 3 single leg balance exercises you can do at home.
Pick up a cup on one leg.
Stand on one leg and look left and right
Stand on one leg and tap on a cup left and a cup right.
Discussion question: How did you perform on the test? Let me know in the discussion section below.
Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.
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