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Accidental falls are a leading cause of injury and death in people over 65 years of age worldwide. Impaired balance is a significant underlying factor in falls.  Any condition that impacts movement health can compromise balance, and advancing age is also strongly associated with balance deficits.

The healthcare community is placing more emphasis on assessing balance among people at risk for impairment. There are many ways to measure balance, some more complex than others. A simple test of balance is measuring the amount of time an individual can stand on one leg without touching the ground with the other leg. This test can help to determine if you are at risk for falling. Those between the ages of 20 and 49, on average, can maintain balance with single leg stance for about 30 seconds.

You can test yourself:

  1. Stand next to a chair or counter-top (in case you have to grasp something quickly)
  2. Use a stopwatch to time in seconds
  3. Place your hands on your hips
  4. Lift one leg from the floor
  5. Maintain your position for up to 30 seconds
  6. Repeat on other leg

Note: You will have to stop timing if you have to put your foot down or if your hands come off of your hips.  

If you have trouble completing this task, for example you can only stand on one leg for 10 seconds, you may consider seeing a physical therapist for further evaluation and intervention. There are many ways to improve balance through exercise interventions, and your physical therapist will know the best approach for you. Addressing fall risk is key to preventive healthcare!

Marcia Miller Spoto PT, DC, OCS

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