It may not seem like the most exciting thing to work on, but balance is essential. If you like hiking, biking, skiing, or even walking up the stairs with ease, then stability is key. And improving it is as simple as doing a few stretches. The four below will loosen up your muscles and align your joints, making you less prone to falling.
Hold each stretch on each side for at least 30 seconds, and try to perform this series three times a week.
Standing Calf Stretch
If your calves are super tight, you won’t be able to put your foot flat on the ground while squatting, lunging, or doing other daily activities, making you unstable. Stretching these muscles will also help keep your knees aligned—important for gait and balance.
Stand nice and tall. Bring one leg behind you and bend your forward leg, placing hands over knee for added stability. Make sure your back heel stays down and your torso stays squared to the front with your shoulders over your hips. If you feel the heel on the back leg lifting up, step the whole leg closer to your body. If you want a deeper stretch, walk that same leg farther back behind you, and then switch to the other side.
Tight hips can lead to lower back and hip pain, and limit your range of motion. Keeping these muscles loose will ensure a stabilized pelvis as you walk, which will help prevent falls. (You can also try these 12 hip-opening yoga poses.)
Directly after completing the calf stretch, carefully bring your back knee down to the floor, keeping your hips forward and spine nice and straight. Keep your core pulled in so your back doesn’t hyperextend, and place your hands over the knee of the forward leg, keeping knee over ankle. Hold here, and then repeat on the other side.
Keeping these muscles loose will help you stand or walk solidly (and can relieve back pain). Plus, this stretch will boost circulation, making you more aware and alert—key for avoiding falls.
Lie on your back with one leg extended long on the floor and the other one extended up to the ceiling. With both hands, grab behind the lifted leg and start to gently pull it in toward your body. The more you flex the foot, the deeper the stretch will be. If you feel straining or discomfort, slightly bend the knee of the working leg or point the foot up to the ceiling. Make sure that your neck is relaxed and your whole spine is pressing down on the floor. Switch legs
Stretching your quads will help prevent injury to your knees and lower back, helping you maintain your range of motion and improving leg and hip flexibility. This stretch will also test your balance—you’ll be able to notice how much you improve after starting this series! If you need to, hold on to a wall or stable surface while you do this stretch.
Stand with your legs hip-distance apart, carefully bend one knee up, and try to kick your butt with that foot. Reach the arm on the same side around your back to grab your foot. Hold here, closing your eyes if you can to challenge your balance. Switch sides and repeat.