Why everyone should be able to stand on one leg

Have you ever performed an exercise on one leg and thought to yourself, “when will I ever do this is real life?” This is a question patients sometimes bring up during their exercise program. Although it seems like we never balance on one leg during our daily life, we actually balance on one leg every moment that we are walking! When we walk, we transfer all of our weight onto one leg while we swing our other leg forward. We keep repeating this process until we reach our destination. If you are unable to balance on one leg for at least a few seconds with your eyes open, you may have compensations when walking. Over time, these compensations may lead to injury. A study by Springer et al showed the normative values of a single leg balance based on gender and age. Across all subjects, the average time for balancing on one leg was 33.4 seconds. In the clinic, my goal for most patients is to work up to performing the exercise for 30 seconds.
An easy way to test yourself is to stand in a doorway or near a stable object. Stand on one leg and time yourself. Also, make sure you are not leaning to the side. Keep your hips and shoulders in line with each other. If you feel you don’t have adequate stability or have a difficult time letting go of the stable object, it is a good idea to be evaluated by a physical therapist. You may have some underlying weaknesses that can be treated to decrease your risk of injury.

By Ryan Kahanu, PT, DPT

Stretch Pro

Article cited in this blog:
Springer, B., Marin, R., Cyhan, T. et al. Normative values for the unipedal stance test with eyes open and closed. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 2007; 30(1):8-15.