How standing on one leg could help you live longer

Can you really help improve your health by doing something simple for a few minutes a day? That’s exactly what Dr Michael Mosley proposes in his book “Just One Thing”. (**) Based on his podcast of the same name, Dr Mosley gives examples of simple, easy (and quick) ways to improve your wellbeing.

One of the 30 ideas in his book particularly caught our attention as we could see the particular benefits for seniors and indeed people of all ages! It’s very simple too:

Stand on One Leg

That’s it!

Falls and balance

According to the Government of Canada:

“In Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and injury deaths among people aged 65 or older.”

In cases where seniors fall, 39% suffered fractures and 70% required medical attention.

So, how can standing on one leg help? Standing and walking requires a combination of sensory input from our inner ear, eyes, muscles and joints. As we reach our 40s, we gradually lose the ability to balance ourselves as well, and there is evidence that our increasingly sedentary lifestyle isn’t helping either.

There is increasing evidence that maintaining good balance is a sign of healthier aging. According to Prof Helen Skelton, Professor of Aging and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University.

“If your brain isn’t doing well for balance, it may not be doing so well in the coordination of other important areas such as hormones and cardiovascular systems.” (***)

A more dramatic example is a 12-year study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which found that:

“The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to later life is linked to a near doubling in the risk of death from any cause within the next 10 years.”

Note the phrase “any cause”. Previous studies have found links between poor balance and a greater risk of stroke and mental decline.

The study leader, Claudio Gil Araújo, MD, research director of the Exercise Medicine Clinic-CLINIMEX in Rio de Janeiro, said:

“As a physician who has worked with cardiac patients for over 4 decades, I was very impressed in finding out that, for those between 51 and 75 years of age, it is riskier for survival to not complete the 10-second one-leg standing test than to have been diagnosed as having coronary artery disease or in being hypertensive, or having abnormal cholesterol.”

How long should I be able to stand on one leg?

A group of American researchers created a chart of the average times people of various ages could stand on one leg with their eyes open and when closed.

People aged 50-59

  • Eyes open = 41 seconds
  • Eyes closed = 8 seconds

People aged 60-69

  • Eyes open = 32 seconds
  • Eyes closed = 4 seconds

People aged 70-79

  • Eyes open = 22 seconds
  • Eyes closed = 3 seconds

Participants took their shoes off, and put their hands by their sides. They then stood on one leg with the other foot raised and tucked behind their standing leg. The time recorded was the duration before they had to shift their weight around on the foot on the ground, or put their raised foot back down.

IMPORTANT: If you want to try standing on one leg, consider your current levels of fitness, balance and mobility first. Do not attempt it if you have any concerns. As with all new exercises, consult your physician and/or physiotherapist first.

Improve your balance – stand like a stork!

Anyone can improve their balance through simply practicing standing on one leg for a minute or two, when the opportunity arises

If you can stand on one leg with your eyes open for less than 10 seconds, Dr Mosley suggests integrating standing on one leg into your daily routine whenever you find yourself on a level surface. So you might stand on one leg while you brush your teeth, waiting for the kettle to boil, or standing in line at the supermarket checkout (even if you do get a few odd looks!).

If you are capable and have home care from one of our caregivers, you can ask them to time your one legged stand at each visit. (The best way is to stand on one leg three times in a row, and take the average time.) Write it in a book, and chart your progress!

As Dr Mosley says, every time you stand on one leg;

“You’ll be boosting your core strength, posture and coordination. You are also more likely to walk upright rather than hunched, which will make you look younger and might even improve your mood.”

Looking for home care in Calgary?

Our hand-picked caregivers provide exceptional care experiences, not just the “necessaries”. Call us to discuss your requirements, or enquire on behalf of a loved one or ageing relative.

(This article was written at a standing desk and included a couple of “hands free” sessions of standing on one leg when thinking about the next paragraph!)



(***) “ Just One Thing: How simple changes can transform your life “ Dr Michael Mosley, Short Books , ISBN-13 978-1780725512,

539, 5940 Macleod Trail SWCalgary, AB