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Why I’m working on my balance

21st February 2023

Every night when I brush my teeth, I do it standing on one leg, with my eyes shut. If you’re wondering why… it’s for my future health.

Balance is thought to be linked to longevity

In 2021, I learned that how long you can balance on one leg with your eyes shut may be an indicator of future longevity. The average for people in their 50s, I read, was eight seconds. ‘I bet I can do more than that, ‘ I thought, ‘What with all the yoga I do!’ But I couldn’t.

So I started practising, while brushing my teeth. Three months later, in that middle video, I could do around 30 seconds. Another year on, and I’m up to a minute – on a good day.

What’s the point of doing this?

I know that this doesn’t make me a) superhuman b) any less likely to develop a serious illness c) fall under a bus d) trip over the dog – and that like other ‘longevity predictors’ like the sit-to-stand test and the getting-up-from-the-floor-without-hands test, the validity of this balance test is subject to a good deal of debate…

BUT, given that falls are the most common cause of injury-related deaths in people over the age of 75* (according to Age UK), it seems to me that balance is a skill that’s very much worth working on.

Balance really matters…

Why is balance and falling such a big deal? Falls contribute significantly to hip fractures and women account for two-thirds of hip fractures, which are also the most common reason for older people needing emergency anaesthesia and surgery, and the most common cause of accidental death.

… and it’s not hard to improve

It’s use-it-or-lose-it with balance, and it’s not hard to get a bit better at it. It only takes a couple of minutes a day and I love any practice where it’s possible to make improvements like this – it doesn’t have to be downhill all the way as we age.

If you want to try, start with your eyes open, with something stable nearby to hold onto and steady yourself when you need it. You don’t have to brush your teeth at the same time. That’s just my way of tying two habits together.



The Tweakments Guide Takeaway

Balance is really important, and it's not hard to improve it. Start with your eyes open while holding onto something, and build up the time from there.

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