Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting rebalanced

kw: aging gracefully

I've heard about this for years: stand barefoot, close your eyes, and lift one foot. Count how long you can stand before you have to put the foot down to catch your balance. The older you are, so it is said, the less time you can stand one-footed with your eyes closed. Now this procedure has been turned into a "test" by the folks at RealAge, with a table quantifying your "balance age" with the number of seconds you last.

With closed eyes, I can stand one-footed for seven seconds. My "balance age" is thus 60. Considering my actual age is 63, it is pretty close. But is it meaningful? In particular, a few months ago, thirty pounds heavier and in worse physical shape, my duration was five seconds and "balance age" was upwards of 65. In the past month I've been standing to put on my stockings rather than doing it sitting down. A month ago, even with my eyes open, I could barely get a sock on without falling down. Now I can put on my socks with ease. There are supposedly balance exercises you can use to improve your ability to stand on one foot. Dressing without sitting down seems to be a pretty good one.

There is another factor here. I think the "close your eyes" part was just to make the test shorter. The table at RealAge indicates that people under thirty can last for nearly thirty seconds. With my eyes open I last about a minute. If the proportion holds, it becomes a test of endurance. Holding one leg in the air for five minutes, at thirty or any age, is hard just because of the weight of the leg. But people vary a lot in how much they need visual cues to stay upright. For some, standing on two feet with their eyes closed can be an iffy business.

Like all such simple tests, this one is at best a very rough indicator, for some people but not all. It'll be interesting, in another month or so, to see if my duration grows longer than seven seconds.

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