Three Steps to Improve Your Balance
Health & Fitness Specialist, Michael McCarthy
Balance can be tricky. It seldom comes easy and the more it’s neglected, the worse it gets. Whether it’s work/life, relationships, or fitness, the long-term benefits of improving your balance can be life changing. For our purposes, let’s stick with fitness.
When training for balance, let’s start at the root of the matter- feet! Most people have had their feet stuffed in their shoes for 8 or more hours per day, every day, for nearly as long as they’ve been alive. Although necessary in most circumstances, the shoes have essentially created a “crutch” for your feet. The muscles of the feet will likely have atrophied (broken down) and weakened, giving you a much less stable surface to move upon. Now I’m not saying to go burn every pair of shoes you own and to relive your Woodstock experience, but let’s address this sooner than later.
First – take your shoes off and let your toes wiggle. Let them breath and feel the ground beneath them. Our feet are incredible sensory tools and require that stimulation to function optimally. Try this out: while standing, take a tennis or lacrosse ball and place it under one foot. Gently apply pressure on the ball and slowly roll your foot up, down, left and right all over this ball. This is a great way to jump starting your nerves, relieve tension in your feet, and bring in some fresh blood supply.
Second – perform a simple exercise to “root” your feet. After you’ve rolled out your feet, stand tall, abdomen and glutes slightly engaged, with your feet facing forward about shoulder width apart. For this exercise you will focus on the connection to the ground with three parts of your foot: big toe, pinky toe, and heel. Apply pressure into the ground with just those three parts of your foot, hold for 10 seconds, and rest. Doing this exercise regularly can help strengthen the muscles of your feet and improve their neuromuscular response, essentially making them more “awake.”
Third – strength train. Having balance requires total body strength and proprioception. Standing still and training balance is one thing, but what about when we’re in motion? Teaching your body how to move through space is incredibly important and even more important as we age. Our feet have been neglected and need attention, however muscles like the glutes and core are incredibly important as well. To truly make an impact on your balance and quality of life I recommend full-body strength training 2-3 times per week. 50/50 Fitness Nutrition provides a great space to strength train in a supervised and safe environment. Programs such as personal training, Targeted Strength, Yoga, and Pilates are all fantastic options to challenge yourself. I hope to see you there!