The big reveal… can you improve your balance in 10 minutes?

The results of the super duper scientific study I conducted yesterday to determine whether you can improve your balance in 10 minutes are in! I could tell you the results here, but I’m going to make you work for them… so keep on reading, or scroll to the bottom if that’s how you roll–pro skim reading tip… check out the graph partway down!

Here is my write-up (my experience being a science major/teacher is hard to let go of!):

Title: Can balance be improved with 10 minutes of effort?
Hypothesis: If a person participates in the “How to Improve Your Balance in 10 Minutes” session at the Perth Union Library on April 21st, then their balance will improve measurably.
Procedure: 1. Test balance by timing how long balance is maintained with eyes closed while standing on one leg. 2. Complete a 10 minute session consisting of A) activate/mobilize (use rocks under the feet to stimulate nerves in the feet and calf stretch/top of the foot stretch to increase mobility in the feet/lower leg), B) practice (balance on a variety of “balance beams” (painter’s tape on the floor, a 2 by 4, the 2 by 4 with pillows under the ends. Difficulty was scaled by cueing reduced arm movement, changing where eyes were focused, and closing eyes). C) challenge (on one leg, participants were instructed to deliberately almost lose their balance–to test the range of imbalance they could recover from. This is super fun to try, you should probably stand up and give it a go right now!). 3. Retest balance, with eyes closed, standing on the same leg as the initial test.
Results: Nine people completed the test/session/retest. Ages ranged from 10ish to 80+ (very accurate study, see?). The average balance time before the session was 15.3s, and the median was 13s (did I mention I also used to teach math? Total math nerd, and proud of it.). The average retest balance time after the session was 28.8s and the median was 20s. I’ll do the math for you (you’re welcome)… there was an increase of 13.5 seconds in the average balance time.(The results section isn’t generally the place to express excitement about the results–that’s the discussion. Still. I was excited to see this, and now you know!).
Discussion: Although 9 people is not a large sample size, the results are promising. Two participants had a reduced retest time, while one had the same time before and after. One of these participants commented that their leg was tired, which is certainly a plausible explanation (my legs were most definitely tired after the 4 hours!). The study doesn’t look at whether the improvement in balance was maintained (i.e. to the next day), which would be interesting to know. Future studies should involve more participants, and it would be interesting to find out if the improved balance is maintained over time. Consideration should be made to account for participant fatigue.
Conclusion: It would appear that balance can in fact be improved in 10 minutes, but further study is warranted.

My favourite part of this experience is that everyone who participated left with tools that WILL improve their balance over time (whether change would be seen in only 10 minutes was what was in question here), and they are all small things that can be incorporated easily into every day life. There are plenty more body parts (hello lateral hips for one) and factors (e.g. rigid, tight, heeled shoes!) that contribute to our (im)balance, but the message I want to shout from the rooftops is that little changes can have a big effect. Awareness is the first step to improvement. Happy balancing!

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