Feeling balanced today?


Have you noticed that your balance may not be as good as it use to?  Is your assessment based on one leg, with or without eyes closed?

Testing one leg balance is quite popular in therapy, fitness and yoga–the repertoire in function and activities of exercise and asana often demand it.  What is surprising is to try it with the eyes closed.  Later in the post you can see a test the two physical therapist came up with.  I’m sure we have used these tests in the past, but take a look at the comparative performance scale–quite humbling for some of us.

I have been testing it more frequently in the clinic to see the range of different populations response–it is a definite eye opener (pun intended) for many.  Without that visual orientation our performance for balanced is generally and markedly affected.  Try it out!

Testing for Equilibrium

Marilyn Moffat and Carole B. Lewis, physical therapists in New York and Washington, respectively, agree with Mr. McCredie that “balance is an area of physical fitness that is often overlooked,” but they seek to correct that in their recent book “Age-Defying Fitness” (Peachtree Publishers). They define balance as “the ability of your body to maintain equilibrium when you stand, walk or perform any other daily activity” like putting on pants, walking on uneven ground or reaching for something on a shelf.

Dr. Moffat and Dr. Lewis suggest starting with a simple assessment of your current ability to maintain good balance. With a counter or sturdy furniture near enough to steady you if needed, perform this test:

1. Stand straight, wearing flat, closed shoes, with your arms folded across your chest. Raise one leg, bending the knee about 45 degrees, start a stopwatch and close your eyes.

2. Remain on one leg, stopping the watch immediately if you uncross your arms, tilt sideways more than 45 degrees, move the leg you are standing on or touch the raised leg to the floor.

3. Repeat this test with the other leg.

Now, compare your performance to the norms for various ages:

¶ 20 to 49 years old: 24 to 28 seconds.

¶ 50 to 59 years: 21 seconds.

¶ 60 to 69 years: 10 seconds.

¶ 70 to 79 years: 4 seconds.

¶ 80 and older: most cannot do it at all.


  1. That was an eye opener. We had heard it before but only now we tried it in our yoga class with Tree Posture. Obviously, it was difficult than this simple standing test. I read in Yoga Anatomy that its our vestibular system that assures us of our position in space and of body rotation etc.

    I wonder if this system develops stronger in the blind or it is the same. Is there any research done in this respect?

    • Good question–there is an interesting article by someone blind dealing casually with parts of this topic here http://nfb.org/legacy/books/kernel1/kern0602.htm
      Seems loss of one sense could potentially strengthen others–but there is a concept of specificity–where if you don’t train it you lose it–that concept has held up pretty well over the time–meaning if you don’t practice one leg balancing (impaired or not) you don’t necessarily have that ability–although in the blind it would be practical that they might have more opportunities in function where they have to put on their shoes or socks in standing and therefore would get practice in standing on one foot

      Let me know if you find any research on this topic


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