Coach Dori Posts | Balance

How Does YOUR Balance Rate?
By Coach Dori

In this article, you’re going to learn a simple way to test your balance so you can use it as a baseline for progress tracking, and as a way to see how your balance compares with other men and women around your age.

Whatever you learn from the chart below, if you can’t balance on each leg for at least 30-seconds, it’s time to start improving your balance.  Your health and quality of life depend on it.

The One-Legged Balance Test

In our movement programs, we have a simple way to test balance.  It’s called the one-legged balance test.

Basically, you cross your hands over your chest and stand quietly on one leg, timing how long you can do it without losing your balance.

You get three tries on each leg.  Then, you take your best score of the three tries.

How to Test Your Balance

To get started, you’ll need a way to track your time.  Most people use a clock with a second hand or a stopwatch on their smartphones.  If you have a friend nearby who can time the test for you, that’s even easier.

Any physical testing or activities are always done at your own risk, so it’s also a good idea to have a chair, desktop, or countertop nearby for support as needed.  Again, if you have someone nearby for added support, even better.

Once you have a timer and support, then cross your hands across your chest, move all your weight to one leg, and lift the other foot off the floor by gently bending at the knee.

Allow the lifted leg to hang relaxed next to the leg you’re standing on, keeping your legs and body still.  Don’t have your legs touching or hooked together in any way.

The time starts as soon as you lift one leg from the floor.  The time stops as soon as the lifted leg touches the floor, or your arms or legs move more than an inch from their starting position.  Meaning, you need to stay still during the test and not use your arms and legs for balance.

A quick note about your time – don’t worry if you can only do a few seconds on each leg at first (or even zero seconds).  This number is just a baseline so you can see your starting point.  Your balance will improve from here.

How Does YOUR Balance Rate?

Next, using the best time from each leg, look at the charts below to see how your balance compares with other 50+ men and women.

The first chart is for women and the second chart is for men.  As you will see, the women’s and men’s times vary slightly.

As an example of how the chart works, if you are a woman and you can balance on your left leg for 20 seconds, then you would start by scanning the left column to find the row that your 20-second time fits into.  In this case, it’s the row that says 15-24 seconds.

From there, you’d look to the right of the row you’re on to see the corresponding age range in the middle column.  Doing that in the chart below, you’ll see that the 20-second time would put you in the 70-79 age range.

The column on the far right shows the average time for the people who were initially tested in each age group.

WOMEN: If your time is … Then the age group
your time falls into is …
The average time
for that age group is …
42+ seconds 40-49 42 seconds
37-41 seconds 50-59 41 seconds
25-36 seconds 60-69 30 seconds
15-24 seconds 70-79 17 seconds
0-14 seconds 80+ 11 seconds

The men’s chart works the same as the women’s.  For example, looking at the chart below, if the best time for one leg is 12 seconds, then that would equate to the 80+ age range.

MEN: If your time is … Then the age group
your time falls into is …
The average time
for that age group is …
42+ seconds 40-49 42 seconds
39-41 seconds 50-59 41 seconds
31-38 seconds 60-69 34 seconds
19-30 seconds 70-79 26 seconds
0-18 seconds 80+ 9 seconds

NOTE:  These charts are adapted from a study called, Normative Values for the Unipedal Stance Test with Eyes Open and Closed by COL Barbara A. Springer, PT, PhD, OCS, SCS; COL Raul Marin, MD; Tamara Cyhan, RN, BSN; CPT Holly Roberts, MPT, GCS; MAJ Norman W. Gill, PT, DSc, OCS, FAAOMPT – Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC.  The study had 549 test subjects.

You can click here to read the full study.

Most Important

Some people look at these charts and think that the “norm” for their age group is the goal for healthy balance.  It’s NOT!

The “norm” doesn’t mean it’s good balance.  It simply means that it’s the “average” for the people they tested in the study.

As I wrote in Chapter 5 of my book, It’s NOT Your AGE!, it’s extremely important to distinguish between what’s “normal” for your age group and what’s “healthy” for your age group.

In SPORTS after 50 movement programs, our first goal is to help people reach 30 seconds per leg.  From there, our goal is one minute.

Once you reach 30 seconds, that puts you into the average time for the 60-69 age group.  And, once you can do 60 seconds per leg, your balance will be in the “under 40” range.

With fall prevention such a hot topic for 50+ men and women, and balance being at the center of sports performance and daily movements, why wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to have good balance – meaning, at least the 40+ age group or better?

And, in case you have any doubts about it … YES, YOU CAN absolutely improve your balance to 30-60 seconds!

Some diseases and permanent disabilities may be the exception, but even in those cases, I have yet to work with anyone who couldn’t at least improve their balance from where it is now.  (And, that includes people diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and more.)

We invite you to become a member of our ACTIVE after 50 Community.

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