Posted by: ayrshirehealth | July 29, 2015

One legged wobble blog by @RoarCommunities

Why I am standing on one leg…

After 20 short years with the NHS, I have recently moved career to the third sector, to Roar – Connections For Life, a charity that describes itself as “small” and “low level” – but as I have quickly realised it has big ideas and immeasurable impact on the older adults it exists to support.Roar 1

Immersing myself in research on the effect of social isolation and loneliness, the potential of intergenerational learning, the benefits of volunteering on personal wellbeing, and the advantages of keeping active into your 70’s, 80’s and 90’s; my fervent and impassioned manager Nicola Hanssen passed some scary headlines onto my desk and said she had an idea how we could respond.

“Standing on one leg for 20 seconds can predict chance of dementia”

“People who struggle to stand on one leg are at an increased risk of stroke”

“Standing on one leg may predict which 53-year-olds at risk of early death”

The Research

Picked up by many media outlets was the publication in the American Stroke Journal in December 2014. Lead researcher, Associate Professor Yasuharu Tabara, of the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University in Japan, statedBalance study “Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health.

One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities.

Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”

Of course there have been many earlier studies connecting the ability to stand on one leg with risk of mortality.

The UK’s Medical Research Council, led by Dr Rachel Cooper, found that 53 year olds who were able to stand on one leg for ten seconds with their eyes closed were the most likely to be fit and well in 13 years’ time. TimeBut they were three times as likely to die before the age of 66 if they could manage only two seconds.

Alarming statistics indeed! So how do we act on this without overwhelming the general public with their impending doom if they are unable to pass the “Unipedal Stance Test”?

Well, first of all, we flip it.

Positive health outcomes

Researchers have previously associated the ability to successfully stand on one leg with positive health outcomes. Balance studyIn the British Medical Journal, a team of American researchers found that increasing even light physical activity led changes such as a reduction in disability among people with, or at high risk of developing, arthritis of the knee.

It was found that an average person who did four and a quarter hours of light physical activity, such as walking, were 43 per cent less likely to develop disabilities compared with those who did three and a quarter hours.

The researchers said this showed that even modest increases in light activity could make the difference between living independently or not. In an editorial, Dr Elizabeth Badley from the University of Toronto said that there is “good news that increasing activity just a little could pay dividends”. She reiterated that “even a little helps – at least as far as physical activity is concerned”.

The Challenge

Roar has been fortunate in getting support from Glasgow Caledonian University Department of Active Living and Healthy Ageing over the past two years through various initiatives and practical help to develop exclusive health and fitness programmes for older adults.

Roar also works closely with Renfrewshire Health & Social Care Partnership, utilising the Positive Steps Falls Prevention Resource Pack [an award winning innovative scheme developed by NHS Ayrshire & Arran and South Ayrshire Council] within our clubs and befriending services, Roar are actively involved in raising awareness of falls and promoting falls prevention and management.

Good balance is important at any age but increasingly vital the older you get – particularly for people over 50.

So here came Nicola’s Big Idea.

Here at Roar – Connections for Life we are committed to promoting health and wellbeing so we have come up with the One Legged Wobble Challenge to have some fun while making a very serious point. Many people don’t know that the length of time you can balance on one leg can predict health problems in later life – but that with a bit of increase in activity you can make improvements both to your balance and your longer term health!”

wobble thumbnailWe engaged some very creative chaps and created a short video , and started encouraging people to take the challenge, film it, nominate people and cascade it out through social media using the hashtag #wobblechallenge.

Taking part in the video are a wide range of age groups including local high school children, staff from a GP Surgery, Clyde Muirshiel Park Rangers, the Leader of Renfrewshire Council and a range of staff, students, volunteers and service users from Roar – Connections for Life.

Professor in Ageing and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University Dawn Skelton supported our idea and said “This One Legged Wobble Challenge is a great idea from Roar to raise awareness of everyone’s need to have good balance, to stay steady on their feet. Good balance is important to prevent falls, get out and about more confidently and live independently. We often don’t realise our balance is declining and this simple challenge can help us understand when it is time to do some balance training. So take up the challenge, tell a friend, I will”.

A 78 year old member of Roar who is featured in the video said. “I used to have good balance, in fact I played ice hockey for many years – now unfortunately I am more like a drunken sailor. I know that coming to Roar keeps me on the move, and I have been offered more exercises for my balance so we’ll see. Use it or lose it as they say”.

Web page

Our webpage [], provides more information on the wobble challenge, with downloadable leaflets on falls prevention, and Postural Stability and Strength exercises.

MrMotivatorThe Big Idea continues to grow, and we have had videos and pics of people wobbling from as far afield as Canada, Kuwait, Sicily, Greece and the Netherlands. Interest has come from fitness instructors, clinicians working with older adults, and many stroke organisations.

I have been cyberstalking celebrities to raise our profile, and so far Rosemary Connolly, Jodi Picoult and Martina Navratilova have retweeted us on Twitter! And my biggest coup to date – Mr Motivator!

And as for myself, well initially I couldn’t manage the ten seconds. So I have started attending a beginner’s line dancing class with my mum and daughter. After all, every little helps!

Your challenge

So – how good is your balance
How long can you stand on one leg? With your eyes closed?
Research shows that your ability could provide early warning of later health problems.

So take our challenge – and start to make lifestyle changes today!

We want to see you try it – so make sure you tag us on your Facebook video or Tweet using #wobblechallenge!
Take a stand!
Challenge a friend!
Tell everyone to visit

 The week’s blog  was by Corinne Watt, Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator, Roar – Connections for Life.

The References

Association of Postural Instability with Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline

Inactivity, disability, and death are all interlinked

Physical capability in mid-life and survival over 13 years of follow-up

Relation of physical activity time to incident disability in community dwelling adults with or at risk of knee arthritis

Roar – Connections For Life One Legged Wobble Challenge

Postural Stability Strength and Balance Home Exercise Programme

Later Life Training resources

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



  1. What if you have an inner ear infection that affects your balance.I would say that this quite a serious for older people to try without supervision.
    In the interests of safety you should remove this blogg.

    • Jayne. I am reading this in the spirit of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Creating and increasing awareness that activty is good for us.
      I take your point that the test may not be appropriate for all people and we should all take personal responsibility for ensuring it is done in a safe way.
      As with the Ice Bucket Challenge some people ellected to use flour or shredded paper to avoid the potential negagtive health consequences of icy water.
      I think this is a good use of Social Media to create an energy to promote connectivity and activity in all people.
      I would be dissapointed to see this taken down.

      • Please then mention that this is not suitable for some people if they have…………….

        or put in a disclaimer

  2. 20 seconds each leg, eyes closed! I am going to live forever! …. great article and great reinforcement to keep moving!

  3. Great blog Corinne – thank you! Fab way to raise awareness of this topic. You sound as though you’re really enjoying the ‘new’ job….I realise it’s not that new now really! It seems very rewarding.
    Anyway I think I’ll set a challenge to the Governance & Development Group members at their next meeting….would probably be worth filming 😂😂😂

  4. This is great , I love a challenge.
    Going to get my family and friends challenged tonight .

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