Key #1: Stretch your calves, toes and feet.
Lower leg stiffness is the number one problem that can make it harder to balance. Your toes, foot and lower leg muscles do tiny movements and adjustments that make balance easier for the rest of your body. If your lower leg is unable to move due to tightness and possibly weakness, then the rest of your body will have to compensate. This causes bigger adjustments throughout the core of the body and the risk for falling is higher. So- get those toes and feet flexible! It is helpful to practice wiggling your toes, going barefoot, rolling your foot on a tennis ball, stretching your calves and wearing shoes that don’t scrunch your toes.
Key #2: Stretch the front of your hips
The gluts surround the back half of our hip socket and they are very important for stabilizing the thigh bone. Most people are tight in the front of their hip socket and are weak on the back of the hip socket, due to sitting. Your gluts are more likely to fire when they are strong and the fronts of your hips are flexible. To stretch the front of your hip, you can try going into a deep lunge. When you are at the office, you can try this standing hip stretch. Face the back of your chair, put your knee on the seat and hold the back rest with your hands to keep balance. Then, squeeze your gluts and bring the hips forward (so your knee is behind your pelvis) to feel a stretch in the front of your hip.
Key #3: Practice
Much of our balance comes from muscle memory. This means that our brains can remember how to move our bodies a certain way without thinking too hard about it. Familiar tasks that you do over and over again will become “programmed” into your brain. When you react to a slippery situation, your reflexes go right to the “program”. If you don’t have much information in your “program/memory bank of balance”, then your nervous system will not be able to cope very well. To practice your balance, try standing on one leg without wearing shoes. Once you get good at this, try balancing while on something swishy like a pillow or folded blanket. The more unstable the surface, the trickier it will be!
It’s been said: “walk like a penguin when you’re on ice”. Keep both knees soft and make sure to have both feet on the ground- heels down. Instead of picking up each foot, you want to be sliding or shuffling as you go slowly over the ice- just like a penguin!