“Why do you do it?” Paul asked after inadvertently finding me standing in the kitchen, eyes shut with arms crossed over my chest, wobbling about with one foot held off the floor. “Why do you read these online medical things that end up scaring the hell out of you?”
“Because I want to know if I’m going to be alive in the next 13 years,” I replied, reaching for my stopwatch. “Otherwise, I’ve got a lot of rescheduling to do.”
It began with my gazing over a study in the journal, “Stroke” (GREAT beach read), which was all about balance. Or more to the point, the lack of it. The study found that the inability to stand on one leg for more than 20 seconds was linked to an increased risk of “silent stroke,” which often shows no outward symptoms, but which raises the risk of a full-blown stroke and dementia. So accurate was the study that it declared those who easily balanced one-legged in their early to mid 50s could look forward to remaining fit and healthy for at least 13 years.
Subjects are to stand with as straight a spine as possible — no sticking a hip out to the left or right – and then slowly lift one foot off the ground with a bent knee, close to the other leg, but without touching, about six inches.
Note: you might want to try this next to a door frame or something to cut the risk of taking a header onto the floor like a lawn dart. Just saying.
For me, personally, I think that riding horses my entire life must have come in somewhat handy here, along with having feet that would barely fit into clown shoes, because it was a piece of cake for me to balance well past 20 seconds, actually even a minute. And so I was feeling pretty cocky, particularly as these attempts are said to be quite difficult as soon as we hit our 50s, and even worse as we enter our 60s, until I read that another way to predict one’s cognitive future, as well as life expectancy, is to repeat the exercise with eyes closed. Well, I mean, how much harder could that be?
Ow! Crap! MEDIC!!
Evidently, it’s indeed trickier and so your Aunty Pam dived into the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy to bring you this list of how long one should be able to stand on one leg with eyes shut to be considered normal and not at risk of an early demise, whether it be from cognitive decline or cracking your head against the towel rail.
Under 40? Fifteen seconds. 40-49: 13 seconds. 50-59: 8 seconds. 60-69: 4 seconds. 70-79: 3 seconds, and 80-89: 2 seconds.
And frankly, if you’re reading this, and in your 80s and thinking about trying it, sit down and have a nice gin and tonic instead. You’ve already made it to the bonus round. Life’s too short to worry about any of this stuff. Have some Cheetohs.
I was appalled to find my first attempt was 3 seconds. Paul was equally appalled to see that I was wearing his brand new pair of boxers (they’re really airy). But each subsequent attempt managed to eek out another couple of seconds and now I can pretty consistently manage 10 seconds on either leg.
It’s addictive: ways to increase your balance are standing on one leg while brushing your teeth, walking frequently over uneven ground, even changing shoes in the middle of the day, alternating with different heel heights. Not so easy for you guys, but you get the picture.
In the meantime, I’m working towards 15 seconds and trying very hard to ignore another study: ‘Duration of Urination does not change with Body Size.’
About 21 seconds, give or take 13 seconds. Regardless of human or other mammals.