The Importance of Standing on One Leg

Standing on one leg3

What is the big deal about being able to stand on one leg?

Why do all healthcare providers immediately ask you to stand on one leg during any assessment?

When do we ever need to stand on one leg in our day-to-day life?

The truth is not only is being able to stand on one leg an excellent predictor of overall health, balance, and leg strength but we actually spend quite a bit of time on one leg during our daily activities. Walking requires periods of standing on one leg and if a person cannot stand on one leg with adequate balance and stability the person shortens their step length which leads to slower walking speed.

Stairs are another activity that requires balancing on one leg. And if unable leads a person to ambulate up and down stairs one step at a time. What’s the big deal with going upstairs one leg at a time? The standard “use it or lose it” rule applies to this situation, if you are only using one leg to go up and down stairs it leads to decreased strength and decreased balance further perpetuating the difficulty with standing on one leg.

Now that we have established how much we use single-leg stance throughout the day, what can we do to improve balance?

The good news is that balance almost always improves with practice. The bad news is balance is difficult and frustrating especially when you are starting out practicing for the first time. Commit to practicing balance daily even if it is just for a few minutes and you will see changes before you know it!

Balance exercises don’t need to be fancy – just practice what is difficult to do and practice it safely. To practice balance, especially when first starting out, try practicing with your back to a corner of a room with a sturdy chair in front of you. Try not to touch either the walls or chair but set them up close enough that you would be able to use them if you lost your balance.

Three exercises to start your balance journey:

1. Standing with your feet together and eyes closed. Try holding for 30 seconds take a break and repeat four times.

2. Stand with one foot in front of the other like you are walking on a tightrope. Maintain this position for 30 seconds and then repeat two times with your left foot in front and two times with your right foot in front.

3. Stand on one leg! Simple but practice. If you need to use your hands on a support surface like the chair in front of you until you become more successful with standing on one leg that is encouraged! Challenge yourself but be safe.

Once you have mastered these challenges, if you still want to continue challenging your balance consider seeking out a balance class at the local recreation center or signing up for physical therapy for a thorough assessment and guidance of your balance abilities.

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