In this edition of the Tread & Butter Foot Health Journal we’re going to dig into some of the ways you can improve your balance. Why? Well, no matter your age or your version of adventure (hiking, running, bicycling, walking, hitting the gym, or any other -ing), good balance is crucial to overall health and longevity.
While balance inevitably wanes and shifts as we get older (falling becomes quite fatal once we pass the age of 65), maintaining and improving balance is acheveiable through proactivity, activity, and targeted balance exercises.
And so, without further ado, here’s our list of some of the best balance exercises you can do at home to improve stability and increase your chances of a longer, healthier, more balanced life!
Feel free to pair these easy balance exercises with our recommended foot stretches, as well as browse all the other useful articles in our Foot Health Journal. And as always, please remember that we recommend consulting with a trusted professional before diving into any of our foot health or balance exercises.
Onward and enjoy!
Whether you head to a local gym or training center (most should already have a wobble board available for you to use), or remain in the comfort of your own home (DIY balance board, anyone?), one of the best ways to improve balance is to challenge it by getting on a wobble board. At just three times a week, for 6 minutes at a time, wobble boards can help improve your balance in a very tangible way.
To begin, start out near a wall in case you need a little extra stability. Stand on the balance board with your feet flat and shoulder-width apart. Hold your abs tight and rock forward/back and side to side for one minute intervals with rest in between. Over time, work yourself up to 2 minutes of balance time on the board without allowing any of its edges to touch the floor.
One of the easiest ways to improve balance is to stand on one leg. You can do it while washing dishes, or talking on the phone or folding laundry, and it does wonders for improving balance in just 30 seconds or less. No, you don’t have to start out with 30 seconds, but you can and should work up to it. When you get there and feel comfortable, you can then try the same stork stand on slightly less stable surfaces (couch cushion, pillow, etc). Then, when at last you’ve mastered standing on one leg at a time (don’t forget to alternate legs and improve balance on both sides), close your eyes and see how long you can make it!
Calming, energy-shifting, and balance-enhancing, tai chi is a wonderful addition to any daily routine or balance home exercise program. As pointed out in a Prevention Magazine article about how to improve balance, “a review of 18 trials including nearly 4,000 participants found that people participating in tai chi were less likely to fall than those who took part in basic stretching programs or made lifestyle changes.”
Along with tai chi, yoga also helps maintain and improve balance through increased ankle flexibility and confidence in walking (the more confident you are in walking, the more you’ll challenge your balance and thus improve it). To get started, check out Peter Chen’s tai chi for beginners.
Even if you don’t have the time to practice yoga regularly, it’s simple enough to add in a few yoga poses several times a week and improve your balance. Which yoga poses are the best for balance? Well, Yoga Journal lists at least 15 balance-enhancing poses, but our favorites are the first three foundational yoga poses they mention. When strung together as a vinyasa (flow), they help improve balance and reduce your chances of falling:
When you practice these as a successional flow—as opposed to holding each statically—you really get to focus on transitions and power. It’s in these transitional movements, when you have to make micro adjustments in order to maintain balance, where you reap the most benefits.
For this easy balance exercise, start by placing one foot directly in front of the other so that the heel of your front foot touches the toes of your back foot (as if you were balancing a tightrope wire). Hold this position for up to 30 seconds at a time, making sure to swap which foot is in front of the other. When this becomes too easy, pretend you are actually on a tightwire and start to take a few steps—heel to toe with each one.
If done several times a week, this simple balance exercise will begin to improve your stability and confidence in no time.
In addition to strong feet, strong legs (especially hamstrings) are integral to achieving and maintaining better balance. To improve quad and hamstring strength, and easily improve your balance, start with some simple squats.
With your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees and hinge at your hips a little, as if sitting into a chair. Keep the weight in your heels and be sure to keep your knees directly above your shoelaces or the tops of your feet (doing squats barefoot is an excellent way to work on foot strength, which also helps improve balance).
When squatting, remember to keep your abs tight, your back straight, and stop your squat when your thighs are parallel to the floor (or before, whatever works for you; just not past that point). On the way back up, contract your glutes.
For this easy at-home balance exercise, aim for three sets of ten with rest in between and, in time, your quads, balance, and body will feel much improved.
Thanks to this little list of some of the best exercises for improving balance, you now have the building blocks to create your own balance home exercise program—how sweet! Whether you start incorporating ballet, balance boards, tai chi, or all three balance exercises into your daily or weekly routine, your balance is certain to not only improve but also hold strong for the long haul.
To learn more about how Tread & Butter can change your world from the ground up, check out our high-quality cork insoles, available in high arch or low arch, or send us a note about your specific insole needs. We’re always here to inform, support (literally), and help keep your feet strong, flexible, and healthy.