Standing on one leg is a medical test that can assess your balance, proprioception, and brain function.
The Romberg test is a simple and short physical test that healthcare providers use to see if you have balance issues and to help narrow down the possible causes of them. It involves standing with your feet together and your arms at your side or crossed in front of you. Part of the test is with your eyes open, and the second part is with your eyes closed¹.
The single-legged stance test (SLST) is another test that healthcare providers use when assessing postural stability and control in older people and in people with Parkinson’s disease. The test involves assessing how long you can maintain standing on one leg with your eyes open¹.
Researchers say the ability to stand on one leg for at least 10 seconds can be an indicator of your overall health. They say a lack of balance can be a sign of underlying health issues. Other indicators such as grip strength and walking speed have also been linked to overall health².
The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds might indicate an increase in the risk of death within the next decade, according to a new study. The study found that 20 percent of the participants were unable to complete the task, with that number increasing with age². That's disturbing! Refer to the end of this article for balance exercise recommendations from Mayo, Harvard and more.
The one-leg balancing test, by a team of Japanese researchers, is believed to be an effective indicator of the probability of stroke in a person. The test is based on the premise that the capability to balance oneself on one leg is a critical indicator of the functional ability of the brain³.
(1) Romberg Test for Balance Issues: What It Is & Types - Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/22901-romberg-test.
(2) Standing on One Leg for 10 Seconds and Your Health. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/can-you-stand-on-one-leg-for-10-seconds-what-that-tells-you-about-your-overall-health.
(3) The ability to balance on one leg for 20 seconds is a sign of ... - Quartz. https://qz.com/402638/the-ability-to-balance-on-one-leg-for-20-seconds-is-a-sign-of-a-healthy-brain.
There are several exercises that can help improve your balance. Here are some examples:
1. Tandem standing: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight distributed evenly on both feet. Place your left foot directly in front of your right foot, heel to toe, and squeeze your inner thighs together. Lift your arms out to your sides at shoulder level to help you balance. Hold for 5 to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat with your right foot in front¹.
2. Braiding: Stand up straight, feet together and weight evenly distributed on both feet. Lift your left leg off the ground and bend it at the knee, bringing your heel towards your buttocks. Hold onto your left ankle with your left hand and hold onto the toes of your left foot with your right hand. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat on the other side¹.
3. Flamingo stand: Stand on one leg with the other leg lifted. Use a chair or wall for support as you stretch your lifted leg forward. Maintain good posture by keeping your spine, neck, and head in one line. To increase the difficulty, extend your hand to reach for your lifted foot. Hold for up to 15 seconds, then do the opposite side⁶.
In addition to these exercises, you may also want to consider incorporating yoga, tai chi, or strength training into your routine ⁷. It's important to note that if you have any medical conditions or concerns about balance issues, you should consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
(1) Finding balance: 3 simple exercises to steady your steps. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/finding-balance-3-simple-exercises-to-steady-your-steps-202110132612.
(2) Balance exercises: 13 Moves with Instructions - Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercises-for-balance.
(3) Balance Training: Benefits, Intensity Level, and More - WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/balance-training.
(4) 8 Balance Exercises to Improve Strength and Flexibility - Prevention. https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20443104/6-ways-to-improve-your-balance/.
(5) Balance - Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/balance.
(6) The Best Exercises to Improve Balance, According to a ... - EatingWell. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7917613/exercises-to-improve-balance/.
(7) Balance exercises - Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/balance-exercises/art-20546836.
(8) Balance Training - Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Balance_Training.
(9) 10 Balance Exercises - Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/fitness/balance-exercises.