A lot of times we hear clients say that a seemingly easy exercise is surprisingly difficult. The most common time I hear this is when I ask somebody to hold their balance while they stand on one foot. Seems like an easy enough task right? Go on try it yourself.
Chances are that if you don’t actively practice this then it’s going to be pretty difficult. Wobbling back and forth are normal as long as you’re not at risk of falling over. There are several different reasons for why this easy exercise needs to be practiced. Every time you walk, you should be standing on one foot even if for a moment. If you can’t stand on one foot, you’re at risk for losing balance while you walk. If you’re not standing on one foot while you’re walking, then you’re not taking long enough strides. An important factor in determining if a person is at risk for a fall was the speed they were walking. Slower walking was actually predictive of falling.
Several reasons could be why this exercise is difficult. One is that practice makes perfect. Not trying it occasionally will make it difficult. Secondly, there are 3 systems in play when you’re trying to balance. The musculoskeletal system will try to keep your bones and muscles in position to stay upright. Your muscles need to be strong enough to keep you in a proper position. Your inner ear provides a lot of feedback to your brain which tries to determine how your head is positioned. Lastly, your joints have joint sensors that send feedback to your central nervous system. This keeps your brain informed of where your joints are.
So this is why we provide this exercise to patients. It challenges several systems at once. It helps determine if there are more than one system with problems. If standing on one leg is too easy, try doing it with your eyes closed!
Dr. Mark Geise, PT DPT