Take the Stability Test — Practice Standing on One Leg

Posted on 15 December 2011

Balancing on one foot will help stabilize your body while running.

As we “comfortably” situate ourselves into the off-season, reducing our training mileage and racing, this is an ideal time to work on balance and form. A runner will typically average 1,200 steps a mile on one foot. And the gravity force on the body structure is 2.5 times the body weight with each step in the mid-stance phase of gait, no matter if you are running in perfect Kenyan style or in the heel-strike-jogging pattern.

Stabilizing yourself in mid-stance then becomes the essential task for healthy running. Moreover, stability, balance, and strength on one foot is even more critical when transitioning to more minimal shoes which do not control the foot. So how do we get better at this? First, try this simple test used by running form guru Jay Dicharry of University of Virginia‘s Center for Endurance Sport. (Note: this test appeared last summer here, but it’s worth repeating.)

The test: Stand on a flat surface with your hands on your hips and your weight on one foot. Get a friend to watch you as you hold that position for 30 seconds. Have them see if you can maintain that with all your toes on the ground, and without raising the inside of the foot. Test the other leg. Then take a break, and do it again with your eyes closed.

If the inside of your foot and big toe come up off the ground, you use your trunk a lot to maintain balance, or you fall, that suggests that you don’t have good control of the muscles in your feet (yet), and need to do some work before you remove your shoes.

“The easy thing is that if you fail the test, the test becomes the exercise,” says Dicharry. ―Do it as often as you can– while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re barbecuing, while you’re drinking a beer. When that gets easy, do it with your eyes closed. It’s better to do it 20 times a day for 30 seconds than for 5 minutes once a week.”

Another thing you might want to do is ditch the chair and get a stand-up desk. Many of us spend hours a day sitting in front of a computer at work and at home. Why not stand while doing your work or answering emails? Take your shoes off when you do this for even greater benefit. There is growing medical evidence that the massive amount of time one spends sitting is negative for one‘s overall health, so yet another reason to get out of the chair.

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6 Responses to “Take the Stability Test — Practice Standing on One Leg”

  1. John R. says:

    Ergonomic experts from Cornell University disagree with the trend towards standing desks:

    “But, standing to work has long known to be problematic, it is more tiring, it dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis (ninefold) because of the additional load on the circulatory system, and it also increases the risks of varicose veins, so standing all day is unhealthy. The performance of many fine motor skills also is less good when people stand rather than sit”

    http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html

    • MarkC says:

      John,
      Thnks for the reply. Bottom line is we will likely have no real scientific evidence to standing at work outside of the fact that sitting is bad if we do it all day. Here is a nice public health piece.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo&feature=player_embedded
      Not sure what study is cited in the increased risk of CV disease. likely other factors, like if you are standing at a stressful job with extremely low pay and harsh working conditions. We know folks who have extreme socioeconomic stress have poor outcomes for reasons not completeley understood.
      Bottom line is do what feels good and/or sit and stand with perfect posture.
      Then go for a walk or run at lunch!

      Mark

  2. I think the most important line from the Cornell page is, “So the key is to build movement variety into the normal workday.”

    Regardless of whether you choose standing or sitting for your workstation, take movement breaks. And if it includes a lunch run, all the better!

    Thanks, Mark.

  3. I read about you by studying the problem “working standing up vs. sitting” solutions.
    I created a product that could help the development of standing-up jobs: Baxaver (the Back-Saver, http://www.baxaver.com), a portable telescopic backrest fit for resting the back when standing in the upright position.
    Today working in the upright position causes a lot of problems, because the vertebral column is under a continuous pressure and dehydration.
    Baxaver allows you to stand upright while alternating the vertical and the bending postures, so that you can relax your column without sitting and using in a better way your stand-up desk.
    Baxaver was defined “the kangaroo’s tail for humans”, because the kangaroo is the only other animal that stands upright, but it has a pyramidal structure (legs + tail), while the humans don’t have a solid structure, having only 2 legs.
    Please take a look at the Baxaver’s website (www.baxaver.com).
    Thank you for your attention and, awaiting your kind reply (comments, partnership, etc.), I remain,
    Yours truly,
    Emanuele Lopopolo


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