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One Leg Static Balance Test: How Well Do You Perform?


Matt
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Has anyone tried the one leg static balance test? I first tried it in 2005 when I bought "The 120 Year Diet". It was the last time I tried the test until yesterday! I managed to get about 1 minute 30 seconds. My age is 35y, 11m.

How well do you do?

My father is 65 and managed about 5-6 seconds. My brother who is 40 managed about 15-17 seconds. They are close to what is expected for their age.

Your ability to stand on one foot with your eyes closed drops sharply with age. If you're right handed, balance on your left foot. Left handed, use right foot. Stand with feet close together and lift foot about 6 inches off the ground. Don't move your foot that you're balancing on.

If you try this, be safe about it! Maybe have someone around close to you while you try.

A decrease in balance may indicate brain abnormalities (eyes open) and even increased mortality for those over 50 (eyes closed).

As you age,  there will be a loss of vestibular function and also other age-related changes take place in the central nervous system that makes it harder to balance. As people get older, they rely more on the visual system - even when eyesight is also failing. A lot of people think this is merely just practice and you need to exercise... but it's more than just stronger leg muscles.

Michael and Joe try the test in the video below:

 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287201 https://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2219

https://geriatrictoolkit.missouri.edu/balance/Normative_Values_for_the_Unipedal_Stance_Test_Springer-JGPT.pdf

https://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2219?

scan0001.jpg

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Haven’t done that test in a long time. I’ve read you can get better at it with practice but that defeats the purpose. You should only use your first attempt as the indicator.

Anyway, just did it, first attempt was stopped when I bumped into something at: 1 min 11 seconds (then opened my eyes). I was on carpet though, I think it’s supposed to be done on a hard surface.

 

5485C3AE-31DF-47B5-9489-5995D7919372.jpeg.18faefd709c2e48648e86015724567db.jpeg
 

Update: tried on a hard surface and confirm it’s easier:

F4669C80-F305-4165-A231-E47300D4FB5F.jpeg.04cbbc9c6402089329f4a9b37a3b679f.jpeg

Both cases were barefoot, I’m guessing it’s easier if wearing sneakers...

 

 

Edited by Gordo
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3 hours ago, omarino said:

Interesting, I had no idea that this test existed and decided to take the challenge. I managed to get 3 minutes and 30 seconds on the second try. Age is 21

That is really good. And that was with your eyes closed and not hopping around?

😄

I've repeated the test a quite a number of times now and I can normally get between 90-120 seconds. But that dropped to near 60 seconds the more I tried (without a rest), as my foot and muscles were burning lol.

I've gotten quite a lot of people to do this test now and most of them fall close to where you'd expect on the graph in the original post. The ones that have been on CR for extended periods of time and who really do seem young for their age (I expected they'd do well), were able to do significantly better.

This is one of the tests Roy Walford proposed checking from time to time in the book 120 Year Diet. Functional tests that decline for everyone with age and can't be as easily changed compared to something like cholesterol. But with CR, you'd expect to see a delayed deterioration.

Also, I should mention , the study I referenced in the 2nd link (Normative Values for the Unipedal Stance Test with Eyes Open and Closed), used a different study design where they crossed their hands over their chest. This is much harder.

I performed this test as well I'm well above what is expected for my age. Eyes closed, arms crossed, standing on weak foot: 42 s, 66 s, 44 s. Only a few seconds rest between tries though.

Back to the original test (no arms crossed), this the results in children / teenagers.

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Single-leg-balance-on-stable-surface-eyes-closed_fig3_236908767

static test children.jpg

Edited by Matt
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18 minutes ago, Matt said:

That is really good. And that was with your eyes closed and not hopping around?

😄

Haha, yes, I followed all the rules. I actually did it again just now and got 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I should disclose that I'm on a fast right now, which I feel like makes quite a lot of difference. I'm very focused and have a greater awareness of my body.

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37 minutes ago, Gordo said:

Haven’t done that test in a long time. I’ve read you can get better at it with practice but that defeats the purpose. You should only use your first attempt as the indicator.

Anyway, just did it, first attempt was stopped when I bumped into something at: 1 min 11 seconds 

 

Eyes closed and on your weakest leg?

I've not found anything to say that you can significantly improve this with practice. Some people keep saying that but I've not seen anyone provide any evidence for this. I'd be happy to be proved wrong though! There might be some level of adaptation in the brain by further compensating for degradation of sensory input, but I'd be surprised if it was that significant.

But I think some people are just misunderstanding what it's testing. From what I understand, this is NOT primarily about muscle strength in the leg or something like that, although it is part of it. You can't just make your legs stronger and hugely better.

As people age, they lose vestibular function and equilibrium. Unless you can regenerate new hair cells, it's going to be difficult to improve on this kind of test because when you close your eyes, you're relying on proprioception, the integrity of the vestibular system, central nervous system to correctly maintain balance without the use of the visual system. 

The only real thing you can do here to perform well on this test is to either a) regenerate these cells or b) slow the rate of damage and cell loss (as what happens with long term calorie restriction in animals).

--

"Clinically, progressive dysequilibrium of aging presents as gradually worsening balance due to age-related decline in function of the peripheral vestibular system, central nervous system, vision, and musculoskeletal system. Vestibular function testing has shown clear evidence of age-related changes in peripheral and central sites. Histopathologic changes in the vestibar sensory organs include progressive hair cell degeneration, otoconial degeneration in the otolith organs, and decreasing number of Scarpa's ganglion neurons."

"Results show a highly significant continuous decrease in all counts from birth to age 100, best fit by a linear regression model. Type I hair cell counts in all three semicircular canal cristae decrease at a similar rate, significantly faster than the degeneration observed in type I hair cells of the maculae. Type II hair cell counts decline at the same rate for all 5 sensory epithelia. These normative data provide the basis for comparisons to hair cell counts made in temporal bones from subjects with known vestibular disorders" [2].

 

1. Age-Related Vestibular Loss: Current Understanding and Future Research Directions

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25567421/

2. Decreasing hair cell counts in aging humans

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11710464/

Edited by Matt
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On 9/22/2020 at 8:43 AM, Matt said:

If you're right handed, balance on your left foot. Left handed, use right foot.

 

1 hour ago, Matt said:

and on your weakest leg?


No idea if it matters, but just an FYI, I used to be a sprinter (track team) and the above statements are contradictory for most people. I am right handed, and left leg dominant (like most people). You can determine which leg is dominant by pretending to dunk a basketball with a running jump as high as you can jump - without thinking about it in advance, what leg did you naturally jump off of? That’s your dominant leg. How this relates to sprinting is that you want your starting blocks set so that your dominant leg’s block is further forward (you burst forth at the start of the race from that leg).  But if I was going to kick a soccer ball in a penalty kick on goal, I'd use my right leg for the kick.

 

As for getting better with practice, when I have given this test to family, they usually fall within 10 seconds the first time, but get better times after trying again a few more times. I’m not sure why that would be the case, maybe they just weren’t concentrating or taking it seriously the first time, or weren’t trying very hard?

Edited by Gordo
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7 hours ago, Gordo said:

As for getting better with practice, when I have given this test to family, they usually fall within 10 seconds the first time, but get better times after trying again a few more times.

I just did it and this was my experience.  The first time it was "WOW! What the fk!" 

But after a couple tries and not holding the lifted leg too far off the ground, I did about 15 seconds. Strangely, I am right-handed, I would jump off from the right leg, yet I could get to a bout 20 seconds on my left leg, and between 12-15 on my right leg.

I feel humbled....

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