Want an easy way to gauge your overall health and well-being right now? It doesn’t take any fancy devices or a trip to the doctor’s office. All you need to do is practice standing on one leg — seriously!
According to Dawn Skelton, PhD, a professor at Glasgow Caledonian University, there’s a lot more to being able to stabilize yourself on your foot than just doing a simple balance check. Not being capable of balancing for at least 20 seconds at a time could inadvertently be an early sign of a neurological issues like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and stroke. Plus, given that Americans — particularly older Americans — have an increased risk of falls as they age, it’s critical to build up the strength and balance as the years go on.
Despite how easy it may seem, standing on one leg for a full 20 seconds is actually pretty hard for many people! Luckily, there are easy steps you can take daily to get better at it. To test how long you can balance to begin with, stand near a chair or an other stable surface and raise your leg just a few inches so that your foot is barely off the ground. Remove your hands from anything that might be balancing you, and time yourself. Just make sure you don’t force yourself to stay upright if you’re falling over; you don’t want to injure yourself in the process of doing this test.
Once you get a sense of how long you’re able to stand like that, it’s time to get to work. Trying small exercises, like sideways walking and step-ups for 30 seconds twice a week, will eventually lead to results. Additionally, it’s okay to go at a slower pace and build up your endurance over time; in fact, doing so can help prevent injury.
By focusing on your balance for just a few months throughout the week, you’ll not only feel stronger and more centered, but you may be better able to tell if something’s off with your body in the future!