How long can you stand on one leg? The importance of keeping your balance

How long ago did you stand on one leg for any length of time? And more importantly, how long can you stand on one leg right now? If it’s for more than 10 seconds, you will probably already have reduced risk of major diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cognitive decline. If not…


Reducing risk

According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine:

The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to later life is linked to a near doubling in the risk of death from any cause within the next 10 years.”

In addition, the leader of that study noted that:

“For those between 51 and 75 years of age, it is riskier for survival to not complete the 10-second one-leg standing test than to have been diagnosed as having coronary artery disease or in being hypertensive, or having abnormal cholesterol.”

Claudio Gil Araújo, MD, Exercise Medicine Clinic-CLINIMEX, Rio de Janeiro


Balance and older age groups

From the age of 40 onwards, we gradually become less adept at balancing ourselves, which is certainly not helped by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Maintaining balance in everyday life including standing and walking, relies on receiving and processing multiple input from our inner ear, eyes, muscles and joints. As Prof Helen Skelton, Professor of Aging and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University said:

“If your brain isn’t doing well for balance, it may not be doing so well in the coordination of other important areas such as hormones and cardiovascular systems.”

So, can we do anything about this? The good news is, absolutely yes. We simply need to practice standing on one leg!

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt standing on one leg if you have any medical, mobility or other concerns. As with all new activity, consult your physician and/or physiotherapist first. You can also make an appointment with our Hunt Footcare team to discuss ways to improve your balance.


How long should I be able to stand?

American researchers investigating how long the average person could stand on one leg asked participants to remove their shoes, raise one foot, and stand on one foot with the other tucked behind their weight-bearing leg. The time recorded was the time before the participant started to wobble or shift their weight.

According to their research, these are the average times for standing on one leg with eyes open and also closed, according to age.

Ages 50-59

  • Open: 41 seconds
  • Closed: 8 seconds


Ages 60-69

  • Open: 32 seconds
  • Closed: 4 seconds


Ages 70-79

  • Open: 22 seconds
  • Closed: 3 seconds


Why is balance important for seniors?

According to the Canadian government:

“In Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and injury deaths among people aged 65 or older.”

Of Canadian seniors aged 65+ who had a fall, 39% suffered fractures and 70% required medical attention.


Concerned about your balance?

Make an appointment to see one of our specialists here at Hunt Footcare. Our team will assess your gait (walking) and how you stand. It may be that your ability to stand on one leg is affected by flat feet / fallen arches, so we may recommend custom orthotics to help realign your feet and enable you to distribute your weight better.


How can I do the ten second balance test?

If you are going to test how long you can stand on one leg at the moment, it’s best to do this with a friend and a smart phone. Your friend watches you and uses the stopwatch function on the phone to time exactly how long you stand before seeing a slight wobble or attempt to readjust your weight on your feet. Do this three times over the course of a minute or two, and take the average time.


How can I practice balancing?

Start safely and simply, particularly if you are a senior and are worried about falling. Stand behind a chair or next to a kitchen countertop, and rest one hand on the chair or top. Now raise one foot to stand on one leg. If you feel unsafe, simply hold onto the chair or tabletop, and put your foot down. Johns Hopkins Medicinehas some simple exercises for seniors to improve strength and balance.


Little and often

UK broadcaster and health campaigner Dr Michael Mosley suggests integrating a simple 10 second one leg stand into your daily routine, such as when waiting for the kettle to boil, or when brushing your teeth. You don’t have to take your shoes off to practice, especially if you already have custom orthotics to correct your posture and gait.


Contact us for help with gait and balance concerns

If you are concerned about your balance or gait, just contact us for an appointment.

Published On: May 31, 2023