Unfair and Unbalanced? The Real Age Balance Test

Photo: hojusaram

Think you have good balance? Well, wanna take a quick test and find out? MizFit alerted me to one a while back that tells you how "old" you are in terms of your balance.

I know I don't have great balance, but compared with others my age I figured it should be pretty decent. I get a lot of exercise and don't just sit in a chair all day, and that's gotta count for something, right?

So I took it, and here's how I scored:


Seriously. I can't say that I'm entirely pleased with the results.

So what exactly is the test, and is it accurate? And what should I do about my apparently crappy balance?



Here's How You Test Yourself:

Note: this is from the Real Age folks, and I'm already pretty darn skeptical of them. This does NOT make me like them any better than I did before.

Stand barefoot on a flat, hard surface. Ask a partner to hold a watch and try not to laugh at you stand close by in case you start to fall.

Close your eyes, lift one foot about 6 inches off the floor, bending your knee at a 45-degree angle. Ask your partner to start timing.

Now hold this position "without jiggling or teetering, falling, cursing like an inebriated sailor on shore leave or opening your eyes."

Stop timing "when the raised foot begins to lower or touch the ground, if you begin to sway, if you hit the ground with a big ugly splat or if you open your eyes."

Repeat the test three times and average the times.

Results?

4 seconds means you're the equivalent of 70 years old;
5 seconds means 65 years old;
7 seconds-- 60;
8 seconds-- 55;
9 seconds-- 50;
12 seconds-- 45;
16 seconds-- 40;
22 seconds-- 30-35;
28 seconds-- 25-30;

And presumably after 28 seconds people explode or something because the values just stop at that point.

Now of course this would a good place to rebut the test results with some scholarly article on how to really measure average functional balance, but unfortunately I couldn't find anything like that. So instead, you get an opinionated tirade on:

Why I Think This Test Is Complete Horsesh*t:

Three words: "Close Your Eyes."

This renders the test nearly impossible for me and others like me.

I am one of those humans who is very visual. I like to see things. I'm crap on the phone, for instance, and I hate when someone reads me instructions out loud. I don't trust any of my senses nearly as much as my visual sense.

When I can see, I can stand on one foot forever. Or at least until it gets really really boring. When I can see, I can do the elliptical at high speed with no hands, forward or backwards, or jump from rock to rock when hiking. I rarely fall down for no reason at all. In brief: I am not nearly as spastic and uncoordinated as this test would have you believe because you have to perform it with your eyes closed.

And I know the "close your eyes" thing makes it harder for everyone; that's on purpose. But some of us get more discombobulated than others when we close our eyes.

Even if I know I'm closing my eyes intentionally, this is how my brain processes it:

ALERT! ALERT! WE HAVE NO VISUAL! HOUSTON, REPEAT, THERE IS NO VISUAL INPUT, ALERT, ALERT!

INITIATE EMERGENCY PROCEDURES! STABILIZE! COPY THAT? STABILIZE! SWING LEFT! NO, SWING RIGHT! THROW ARMS OUT TO THE SIDES! TIP FORWARD. NO, BACK, BACK, BACK, BACK!!

AHHHHHH! WE'RE GOING DOWN!!!....

Needless to say, it is hard to calmly balance under these conditions. And since the test equates flailing with failing, I'm usually out within a few quick seconds. Even if I don't put my foot down right away, I'm teetering and swaying like a palm tree in a hurricane.

Since I'm not blind, nor do I live in a world without electric lighting when it is dark, there is no practical need for me to stand on one foot with my eyes closed. Other than to score better on a stupid test.

Which means: next time I'm balancing on one leg anyway to do quad stretches, I'm gonna start practicing doing it with my eyes closed. Because I hate flunking tests, even stupid ones!

Balance Exercises:

Motivated to improve your balance? Well, there's always yoga and Tai Chi and bosu balls and balance boards. But here are some balance exercises from the LiveStrong site; there are pages and pages of them, all accompanied by short animations. Warning: it appears that performing these exercises may make you extremely muscular and bald.



Video courtesy of LIVESTRONG.COM


Wanting to improve your balance? Think it's just fine as is? Doing anything to improve it?

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