Balance exercises can be challenging. While this is a good thing because they need to challenge your body to produce change, it is common for people to feel as though they are not improving. There are a few quick tricks that you can try to improve your balance exercises.
The first trick may seem counter intuitive to some. While many people feel that having a stable and steady shoe would keep their foot better balanced, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The foot has a large number of what are called sensory receptors. These receptors detect information about the environment and the movement of the body, and use this information to direct the muscles. The faster these receptors relay this information, the more likely the muscles can react to unstable conditions and the less likely you are to fall. Being barefoot and on a surface that has some texture while performing your balance exercises (provided you still have something nearby to hold if you need for safety) stimulates these receptors and helps you to improve your balance. It could be a woven rug, a textured stone tile or even the ground outside.
Use your hands
The next trick is something that probably seems quite strange. Hold and squeeze something while attempting your balance exercises. While your hands may not seem at all related to your balance, the reason this trick works is simple. The same sensory receptors are present all throughout your body. The more information you feed into your brain from all different body parts, the clearer your body map is. The better your body’s understanding of its position, the easier it can control the muscles to keep you balanced. By squeezing the ball you are sending a lot of information to the brain as the hands – much like the feet – have many receptors to detect their position.
Release your foot
The final trick is to release the bottom of the foot for 5 minutes before performing your balance exercises. Research has shown that 5 minutes of work on the sole of the foot significantly improves your balance. Again this relates to the sensory receptors and the body’s awareness of its position. The easiest way to release the bottom of the foot is to roll all parts of the foot over a ball. To start with use something like a tennis ball as a very firm ball will be very painful. The goal here is not to create a lot of pain but rather to improve the “feeling” in your feet.
Try these simple tricks and let us know how they affect your balance!