Can't balance on one leg? A physical therapist says you need to do this strength-boosting exercise

Boost your balance, stability and lower-body strength with this single move

Group of people on a tennis court smile and laugh as they balance on one leg
(Image credit: Taiyou Nomachi / Getty Images)

As we get older and lose some of our strength, we're more prone to trips and falls. One way of gauging our fall risk is by doing the single-leg balance test, which requires you to stand on one leg for as long as possible.

Dr Andy Fata-Chan, a doctor of physical therapy and founder of Moment Physical Therapy and Performance, says a middle-aged adult should be able to do this for around 45-60 seconds.

"A lot of everyday activities happen on one leg. Whether it's running, walking, coming up and down the stairs—it's happening on one leg. If you lose that ability, that lets us know that your function is declining," says Fata-Chan.

If you want to boost your strength, balance and mobility, Fata-Chan suggests strength training twice a week and doing a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio. If you'd like to improve your single-leg balance, do this simple strength move at home. It will strengthen muscles in your thighs and backside and build stability in your knee joint. It will also help you work on your balance by challenging your muscles to respond to any wobbles, rectifying your stance.

How to do the lateral step-down

Two images side-by-side showing the start and midway positions of the lateral step down exercise. The model is wearing a blue T-shirt and white baseball cap, shorts and trainers.

(Image credit: Courtesy Dr Andy Fata-Chan)
  • Stand on an elevated surface, like a plyo box in your gym, or the lowest stair in your house. If using a staircase, you should be side on to the step.
  • Position yourself so that one leg is on the box or step, and the other is hovering over the edge.
  • Bend the knee of your standing leg to slowly lower your other foot until it taps the floor.
  • Extend your standing leg to return to the start. then push through your standing leg to stand back up.
About our expert
Dr Andy Fata-Chan headhost. He has short black hair and is wearing a dusty pink short-sleeved T-shirt and thin gold chain around his neck.
About our expert
Dr Andy Fata-Chan, PT, DPT

Dr. Fata-Chan received his bachelors in psychology from the University at Buffalo and his doctorate of physical therapy from the University of St. Augustine. His experiences range from training youth athletes and weekend warriors, to working with Olympic and professional-level competitors.

Ruth Gaukrodger
Fitness Editor

Ruth Gaukrodger is the fitness editor for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, responsible for editing articles on everything from fitness trackers to walking shoes. A lot of her time is spent setting up testing protocols for our in-depth buying guides and making sure everything is reviewed to a set standard, so you can be confident we only recommend the best products on the market.

When she's not wrestling with equipment in our dedicated testing centre, you can find her pursuing running PBs around the streets of London or improving her yoga skills from the comfort of her living room. She’s a keen believer in working out for enjoyment first and is always open to hearing about new, fun ways to exercise.