By Laurie Sweig
Stand on one foot. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Hold that position as long as you can. Now, stand on your other foot. Is that harder or easier than the foot you started with? Chances are it’s a little more difficult. Starting with the stronger side is a built in reflex that is meant to protect us from harm. I always say to my clients “we’re not here to strengthen your strengths, we’re here to strengthen your weaknesses.” By doing that little test you now know which side is weak. When doing unilateral exercises it is best to start on the weaker side.
Set a timer for 30 seconds. Start the time and stand on one foot (choose the weaker option) as long as you can. Attempt to hold that position for the entire 30 seconds. When you put your foot down it’s game over. Switch to the other side and repeat the exercise. The goal is to balance on one leg for 30 seconds. Once you’ve accomplished that task try it again but with your eyes closed. That is the ultimate test of good balance.
Sadly, the effects of sitting too much is destroying the ability to balance in people of all ages. When we first learn to walk it is by trial and error. Gradually, we refine motor skills so toddling eventually becomes walking and running. These days children are moving less and that’s resulting in 20 year olds with poor balance. That all translates into increased potential for injuries.
Balance definitely falls under the “use or lose it” category of fitness (I’m not sure any part of fitness escapes that category). It really is easy to incorporate balance into a daily routine. Here are some ideas when you can stand on one foot during your day:
• Brushing your teeth.
Waiting for your coffee to brew or your meal to warm up in the microwave
• Watching TV
•Talking on the phone or participating in a video call
•Standing in line at the store.
Doing the 30-second test (eyes open or closed) on a regular basis is a great way to monitor progress or to ensure you haven’t lost any ground. Nobody likes to fall down. This small time/effort investment might just keep us away from the emergency room.
Something to think about.
Laurie Sweig is a certified personal fitness trainer and spinning instructor. She owns and operates The Point for Fitness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.