Do you worry about falling as you age?
You’re not alone. Seniors are at a higher risk for falls, so it’s important to take steps to improve your balance. But you may be wondering, “How do I test my balance at home?”
In this article, we will discuss two simple balance tests you can do at home that will help reveal your balance in detail.
What are the 2 balance tests seniors can do at home?
1. Activities-specific Balance Confidence Test (ABC Scale)
2. Timed Up and Go (TUG Test)
How is your balance today? If you were to walk…
- around your house now
- through all the narrow or dimly-lit hallways
- on fluffy carpet or cold tile, walk up or down stairs
- step over to get in your bathtub or shower
- or walk outside on an uneven driveway
How confident are you that your balance will not betray you?
These two balance tests will help you establish baseline data to compare how your balance improves (or declines) over time.
This article will give you more than 45 exercise ideas to improve your balance and decrease your risk of falling.
How to perform the Activities-specific Balance Confidence Test (ABC Scale)
The ABC Scale is a self-administered balance test questionnaire.
This questionnaire has been shown to be a valid and reliable measure for the assessment of balance confidence among community-dwelling older adults and is literally as easy to answer as its acronym, ABC!
There are 16 questions, corresponding to different activities you would normally do on an average day.
For each of the questions, you will indicate your level of confidence in performing that activity without losing your balance or becoming unsteady.
You will score yourself on a scale from 0% (No confidence ) to 100% (Completely Confident ).
There are no right or wrong answers, so be honest with yourself when answering the questions. Only you will benefit the most with your answers.
For each of the following activities, please indicate your level of confidence in doing the activity without losing your balance or becoming unsteady by choosing one of the percentage points on the scale from 0% to 100%
If you do not currently do the activity in question, try and imagine how confident you would be if you had to do the activity.
If you normally use a walking aid to do the activity or hold onto someone, rate your confidence as if you were using these supports.
How confident are you that you will not lose your balance or become unsteady when you…
- walk around the house?
- walk up or down stairs?
- bend over and pick up a slipper from the front of a closet floor?
- reach for a small can off a shelf at eye level?
- stand on your tip toes and reach for something above your head?
- stand on a chair and reach for something?
- sweep the floor?
- walk outside the house to a car parked in the driveway?
- get into or out of a car?
- walk across a parking lot to the mall?
- walk up or down a ramp?
- walk in a crowded mall where people rapidly walk past you?
- are bumped into by people as you walk through the mall?
- step onto or off an escalator while you are holding on to a railing?
- step onto or off an escalator while holding parcels in such a way that you cannot hold onto the railing?
- walk outside on icy sidewalks?
TOTAL SCORE: ____________
To get your ABC score, add all your ratings (possible range of 0 to 1600) and divide by 16.
- >80% – high level of physical functioning (Low risk of falling)
- 50%-80% – moderate level of physical functioning (Moderate risk of falling)
- <50% – low level of physical functioning (High risk of falling)
How to perform the Timed Up and Go Test (TUG)
This balance test is a fast and reliable diagnostic tool.
The result of this test correlates with your walking speed, balance, and functional level.
A normal, healthy older adult usually completes the task in ten seconds or less. A very frail or weak, elderly adult with poor mobility may take 2 minutes or even longer.
- Have another person monitor a watch or timer for you.
- Begin the test by sitting correctly (hips all the way to the back of the seat) in a chair with armrests. The chair should be stable and positioned so that it will not move when you move from sitting to standing.
- You can use the armrests during the sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit movements.
- Place a piece of tape or another marker on the floor 3 meters (9.84 feet) away from the chair.
- On the word GO, you will stand up, walk to the marker on the floor, turn around, and walk back to the chair and sit down. Walk at your regular pace.
- The person monitoring the timer should start timing on the word “GO” and stop timing when you are seated again correctly in the chair with your back resting against the back of the chair.
- You should wear your regular footwear and may use any gait aid (cane, walker, etc.) that you normally use during ambulation, but you may not be assisted by another person.
- There is no time limit. You may stop and rest (but not sit down) if you need to.
- 60 – 69 years: 8.1 seconds
- 70 – 79 years: 9.2 seconds
- 80 – 99 years: 11.3 seconds
- Community-Dwelling: more than 14 seconds = associated with high fall risk
- Post-op hip fracture: more than 24 seconds = predictive of falls within 6 months
- Frail older adults: more than 30 seconds = predictive of requiring an assistive device for walking and being dependent on ADLs
What to do next?
There are many benefits to testing your balance.
The two balance tests I outlined in this article can help you identify any underlying balance problems that you may have.
They can also help you assess your risk of falls and identify any potential balance-related injuries. These balance tests can also help you improve your balance by providing a goal to work towards.
By testing your balance regularly, you can monitor your progress and make sure that you are making the most of your balance-training efforts.
Stay healthy and live fully by testing your balance today!
Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT is an author and speaker who has been a physical/physiotherapist for over 24 years. On drlexgonzales.com he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to improve your health and function.