A quick test to gauge balance for older adults

A quarter of older adults fall each year. (Dreamstime/TNS)
A quarter of older adults fall each year. (Dreamstime/TNS)

One-fourth of older adults are in danger of being injured through a fall.

For those worried about their balance, a simple test at home can serve as a gauge, said Alyssa Zimmerman, a physical therapist with ATI Physical Therapy in Shorewood, Ill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a quarter of people 65 and older fall each year. Every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

And nearly 2.8 million older adults visit emergency rooms for nonfatal fall injuries each year, according to the CDC.

“It’s definitely something we try to look at and manage in the clinic — different balance-type tests that we can use in order to try and determine increased risk of falling,” Zimmerman said.

She tells patients to try the 30-second Chair Stand Test, which tests leg strength and endurance, and also is recommended by the CDC.

Sit in a chair with arms folded across the shoulders. Then stand up and sit down as many times as you can in 30 seconds, keeping your feet flat and your back straight.

The CDC recommends a chair with a straight back and the seat at least 17 inches high.

For adults between 70 and 74 years old, the average number of times you come to a full standing position in 30 seconds should be at least 10 for women and 12 for men. The CDC provides a full chart of the average numbers to aim for.

When Zimmerman sees patients, she will sometimes have them do this test to gauge their stability. Based on those results, she may offer at-home strengthening exercises such as switching your weight from heels to toes or doing a bridge.

One caution — if you have a history of falling or are feeling extremely unsteady, don’t try this without first talking to a doctor.