A quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support?
To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?
An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results?
We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your walking is not as steady as you think it is (and if this was difficult for you, consider avoiding the treadmill).
We can not only use this test to look at the amount of time you can stand on one leg, but the quality of your standing can give you balance clues. Are your toes curled to keep your balance? Did your knee bend? Did your hip poke out to the side? Did your trunk rotate? Did you have to put your arms out? Did you push your head forward? Did you hold your breath?
Even if you were able to stand on one leg for some amount of time any of the above compensations indicate a balance issue. So if a balance issue was identified while standing on one leg, how do you start to get this better? The answer is simple- practice! Practice as often as possible on any surface you can think of including the floors in your home, grass, on pillows, or even on a 2x4. Be mindful of all of the above compensations while you are practicing and work to make them better.
Try it and let us know how it goes!