How to Avoid Falls By Standing On One Leg

By Michelle Briancesco, DPT

Every day we take a step we run the risk of a fall.

Whether it's stepping off the curb to make it across the street before the light changes, dodging the minefield of toys the kids left out on the floor or just walking through Central Park.

Three systems help us maintain our balance and avoid hurtful falls
  1. Vision
  2. Inner Ear
  3. Muscle Feedback

1. Vision

Your eyesight helps you make decisions with your body in regards to balance. When your vision is compromised so is your ability to make adjustments needed to avoid falls.

2. Inner Ear

One's sense of equilibrium is controlled by organs within the inner ear. Any changes within the ear such as hearing loss, ear infections, etc. all effect our ability to maintain balance.

3. Muscle Feedback

Inside your muscles are receptors, called proprioceptors. These proprioceptors allow you to know where various parts of your body are located in relation to each other and your environment. The quicker these proprioceptors are at responding, the better your chances of regaining your balance when faced with a potential fall.

As we grow older these systems start to deteriorate.

Physical therapy cannot improve the first two systems. But by working on the third, you can compensate for the other two and increase the response and awareness of your body in space. This helps you to avoid a potential injury.

A simple way to train your muscles and receptors: Stand on one leg.

Find a safe environment such as near the kitchen counter, in case you need to grab something for support. Start by raising one leg and maintain your balance for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat this three times on each leg.

As you become more comfortable, you can advance the process by closing your eyes. Once you've managed well enough with closed eyes you can mix it up again by changing the surface you're standing on. For example stand on a pillow.

This simple exercise improves the way your body responds when faced with a potential loss of balance or fall. You can even add this exercise to your regular workout by completing exercises while standing on one leg.

So get a leg up!

Train your muscle feedback system to improve your balance and help your body compensate for the compromised systems that keep you from falling down.