My Balancing Act

As well as the whole shebang of strength, mobility and gait pattern that goes AWOL after ATR we lose the ability to balance on one leg. The good news is that it is a very trainable skill!

I have put together my own set of exercises and after a couple of weeks it is all coming back. Hallelujah!

Here are the 6 exercises that sound easy- but aren’t. I perform each on the good leg so that there is a patterning for the affected leg to follow. One minute of balance followed by 10 second rest, if you have a timer app on your phone it makes it super easy. Twice a day if you can squeeze it in.

First level is in supportive shoes, then move to barefoot. The most important thing is that you are balancing on the whole foot- not windmilling ever body part possible and standing on the the outside of your foot. Tap down the foot or hold on as needed.

1. stand on leg and trace semi circles with the raised leg- just above the ground to start and then higher.

2. stand on leg and reach down to a sofa or coffee table keeping the raised leg and back in a straight line- like a single leg dead lift. Work towards not touching back down on the ground.

3. stand on one leg and pass an object over head- start with a yoga block and move up to a weight.

4. stand on one leg and look to left, then up to the sky, then down to the floor- look to the right and then up and down.

5. stand on one leg and toss a ball from hand to hand.

6. stand with the feet in line and heel to toe- affected leg in front first. Close eyes and move head side to side.

Practice up- these could develop into your best party tricks of the holiday season!

8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    normofthenorth said,

    December 5, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

    Regaining lost balance is important, alright. But I don’t think I could ever do half of those exercises!

    My main balance exercise these days is in the shower, when I wash my lower legs and feet. I keep my eyes open and try not to crab-walk too far to keep my foot under me. Pretty similar on both sides, but i have ruptured both ATs, so Idon’t have a factory-specs “control” any more!

    There’s also an age component to balance. I’ve been taught that one specific test - how long you can stand on one foot in a doorway eyes closed - is a reliable indicator of chronological age, independent of fitness, balance exercises, etc. Depressing if true. (I don’t remember the conversion formula, from seconds to years.)

  2. 2

    herewegoagain said,

    December 6, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

    Norm, I can’t say I agree with that theory on aging and balance apart from the depressing part. I coach athletes ranging from 12 to 84 and none of them are the same physically. If I lined up the oldies with the others in our community they would show drastically different abilities- because all of them believe physical literacy is still possible.
    Balance and flexibility are the 2 traits which age us physically and both have major impact on athleticism. The loss of stability in the foot is one part of the balance support network that can be improved relatively whether we have ruptured or not.
    I hope others consider this useful and give it a go!

  3. 3

    cardiojunkie said,

    December 6, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

    HWGA - I’ve done #1 and 2. I’m going to try a few of the others on your list. Have you tried single leg standing on a Bosu (or a pillow)? That is one is from my physical therapist.

  4. 4

    herewegoagain said,

    December 6, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

    Good for you-#6 is the toughest for me! I am trying to master the bosu but the foot has to balance through so many planes it is challenging. We will get there though!!!

  5. 5

    normofthenorth said,

    December 7, 2014 @ 1:51 am

    I found a version of the chart that lets you read your age from how long you can stand on one foot eyes closed, at sharecare.com/health/fitness-exercise/article/improve-your-balance . But they are convinced, like you, that it can be improved with practice. That’s not what the daily science show on Canadian Discovery Channel reported a bunch of years ago.

    I just tested myself, and I’m within 5 years of my age-peers — which is way closer than I usually come on fitness or O2-to-CO2 tests, etc. (not to mention in sports!). And balancing on my left leg (more recent ATR) seems a bit worse than the right. When I go to balance on one foot eyes OPEN, I can hold it forever, on either leg.

    I wonder if this is another test that tests something that seems more important than it really is — just as I’ve discovered that my inability to do a bunch of full-height 1-leg heel raises on my left didn’t seem to translate into less vertical at the volleyball net, or slower take-off on floor defense (even though I’m left-footed).

    Heck, I never play sports with my eyes closed! And my most balance-intensive sports — skiing, bicycling, and sailing (and racing) small sailboats — all demand dynamic balance, not static balance. A good expert practitioner of any of those sports is constantly making micro-adjustments to stay in balance — like subtly adding or releasing “edge” in a ski turn, based on propriocentric (physical) and visual inputs. I think I’m way better at all three of those forms of balance than I was 20 years ago, and I bet I’m way worse at standing on one foot in a doorway with my eyes closed. That’s fine with me — way better than the other way around! ;-)

    And BTW, I have similar views on flexibility. My elderly body really “gels” when I’m inactive, even for an hour or two. E.g., when I get out of bed and walk to the washroom, I’m probably half-way there before I really stand up straight!! But one time my bod is “loose as a goose” is when I’m working up a sweat on the volleyball court. I do make “old man noises” when getting up from an easy chair, but my grunts and “Oofs” while playing 2-on-2 beach volleyball haven’t changed over the decades.

  6. 6

    normofthenorth said,

    December 7, 2014 @ 2:03 am

    bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2219 correlates the length of time a 53-year-old can balance on one foot eyes closed (& 2 other fitness tests) with the likelihood of surviving the next 13 years, and it’s a very strong correlation! (I assume none of the people in the study had just ruptured an AT!)

  7. 7

    normofthenorth said,

    December 9, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

    So now I’m trying to improve my balance-test scores, following the tips in /posturemovementpain.com/2014/01/30/how-long-should-i-be-able-to-balance-on-one-leg/

    According to my understanding of correlation vs. causation, even if I succeed, it’s unlikely to increase my probability of surviving for 13 (or however many) years. . .

  8. 8

    herewegoagain said,

    December 10, 2014 @ 11:06 am

    Good luck with your balance scores, I have never thought of it as a means of stretching out my existence though. I simply love being active and outside and technical sports are my thing. I am way better at some than others but for me it is the potential to improve that keeps me fired up. ATR creates a temporary but dramatic change of lifestyle and forces us to take stock, for each of my ATR’s I have felt a massive desire to return to sport better than ever. We are all so different though, and this blog has reminded me how vital it is to value and respect individuality!

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