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Balance is like a muscle in that the more your work at it, the stronger it gets. In the physical sense, balance is the ability to keep your center of gravity over your base of support, despite interference from external forces. In 2011, the American College of Sports Medicine updated their Recommended Quantity and Quality of Exercise Standards for Healthy Adults to include a functional fitness component that involves balance. Strong balance can help you perform everyday activities, improve posture, possibly reduce back pain, improve athletic performance and it aides personal safety as we age and the risk of falling injuries increases. 

How steady are you?  To test your balance, try the Standing Stork Test, an often used, easy method that requires little to no equipment.  

Stork Balance Stand Test
o   This is a timed test.  Have someone to assist with a stopwatch. 
o   If testing alone, have a clock with second indicators in your vision.

o   For safety, be sure to have a chair, table or wall nearby in case of a fall.

  1. Remove shoes and stand on a level surface.
  2. Put your hands on the hips and place one foot against the inside knee of the other leg.  Just hold the foot there, do not press into the knee (shear force against a joint is not good).
  3. Settle yourself and take a moment to practice balance.
  4. To start the test, begin timing as you lift the heel of the standing leg off the floor so you are balancing on the ball of the foot.
  5. Stop timing when your form breaks i.e. your arms move, the heel goes down to the floor, you start hopping around or the foot of the bent leg comes off the knee and/or touches the floor.
  6. Repeat this test 3 times and record the best (longest) time.  __________

Testing Modifications

o   If this was too difficult, instead of placing the foot against the inside of the knee, simply lift the foot off the floor behind you. (Standard Stork Stand Test)
o   If this was a breeze, challenge yourself by closing your eyes during test. (Blind Stork Stand Test)
Using the appropriate modification for you, see how you rate:
(in seconds)
> 50
40 – 50
25- 39
10 – 24
To improve your balance…use it, use it use it.  Consider exercise forms like Tai Chi or Pilates that address this element of fitness.  With the aid of a trainer or group fitness instructor incorporate the use of a BOSU ball or Wobble board into your fitness classes or weight training.  You can also build balance work into everyday activities.  For example, periodically use a stability ball instead of a chair for seated activities like watching tv or checking email.  Balance on one foot by placing the arch of one foot on top of the other during lifestyle activities at home like brushing your teeth, doing dishes or folding laundry. 
With focus, regular practice and time, you can steady yourself and strengthen your balance “muscle”.

References:  American College of Sports Medicine
Practical measurements for evaluation in physical education. 4th Edit. Minneapolis: Burgess, 1979.
Nettye Johnson Faith and Fitness Services LLC provides comprehensive fitness evaluation services.  For more information, email nettye@nettyejohnson.mystagingwebsite.com 

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