The risk of a debilitating fall is greatest in the winter. This is due to increased darkness and changes in the terrain. But you can still get out and enjoy leaf peeping and pumpkin picking without worry. These smart tricks improve your balance and keep you steady on your feet.
Try Yoga Socks
Instead of padding around the house in slippers, try putting on a pair of grippy yoga socks for two hours a day. Traditional slippers limit the foot’s range of motion, preventing its tiny muscles and tendons from moving in ways that build them up and strengthen feet and ankles. Preventing falls requires stability and balance, and it’s hard to balance when your feet and ankles lack range of motion and aren’t sufficiently strong. Fortunately, kicking off restrictive footwear for a little bit each day gives feet a daily “workout” that can help your balance and strengthen your feet.
Trace Your Hand
When your mind is calm, your brain is better able to focus subconscious attention on keeping balanced. A simple way to ease tension: With the lightest touch, use your right index finger to slowly trace the outline of your left hand, beginning from the base of your wrist below your pinkie, then up and over each finger until you reach your thumb. Reverse and repeat 10 times while focusing your mind on the pleasant sensation. This type of mindfulness cuts anxiety by 39 percent, according to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center scientists, restoring the mind-body connection that keeps you steady on your feet.
Pop a Piece of Gum
Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum after eating can make you less likely to have a fall, Japanese research suggests. It removes bacteria along the gum line before it can travel to the brain and disrupt your balance. Make sure to savor the flavor. Homing in on a simple experience for as little as five seconds daily can help to reconnect your mind and body, in turn potentially making a fall less likely.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.