Reprinted with permission from Tracey Kamm and Spirit of the Bear.
There are many great reasons to love reflexology, and here is another one: what it can do for your balance.
As a reflexology practitioner for over 20 years, I’ve personally witnessed how this practice has improved the quality of life of many people. Reflexology is an ancient holistic therapy involving the application of pressure to areas of the hands and feet that correspond to each part of the body—each joint, bone, muscle, organ, gland, and more. By working through these reflexes, it can promote better health and well-being.
If you’ve ever had a reflexology session, you know what a treat it is. A client of mine once made up a new word for the deep state of relaxation she feels during her sessions: “reflexicoma.”
The practice is not only valued for its ability to promote calmness and serenity, but it also has many well-researched health benefits. One of them—improved balance—becomes increasingly important as we age. As one recent study explained, balance may be a strong indicator of our overall health, a fact we are coming to understand more than ever before.
From 2008 to 2020, this study followed 1,702 participants (aged 51 to 75) and kept track of their ability to stand on one leg for ten seconds, while resting the front of their free foot on the back of their standing leg and keeping their arms at their sides. About 20 percent of the participants couldn’t complete the balance test. After accounting for individual health factors, the researchers found that those who were unable to complete the test were 84 percent more likely to die over the next ten years.
Exactly why a loss of balance would be associated with an increased risk of death is not yet known, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Claudio Gil Soares de Araújo, a sports and exercise physician and director of research and education at the Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
However, Araújo notes that poor balance and a lack of musculoskeletal fitness is linked with frailty in older adults. As he explains, “Aged people falling are at very high risk of major fractures and other related complications. This may play a role in the higher risk of mortality. Remember that we regularly need to stay in a one-legged posture, to move out of a car, to climb or descend a step or stair and so on.”
The good news is it’s never too late to improve balance—and reflexology may help.
In a separate study looking at reflexology and balance in elderly men, the researchers state, “Improving the affective factors of balance could be a critical procedure in managing the elderly’s balance dysfunction. The goal of this study was to determine the effect of eight weeks foot reflexology on balance and ankle joint proprioception error in elderly men.”
By the end of the study, the researchers say, “Based on findings of this study it can be concluded that foot reflexology may improve static and dynamic balance and ankle proprioception in elderly men.”
We can probably expect it would have the same results with women, too, right?
So if balance is a predictor of overall health and longevity, and if reflexology may improve balance, then reflexology can be another tool for improving overall health, longevity, and quality of life.
In addition, research shows that reflexology has many other benefits.
The Mayo Clinic and WebMD both encourage the inclusion of reflexology as part of a healthy lifestyle, citing research indicating the practice may be helpful for pain, sleep, stress, anxiety, depression, and more.
Years ago, when I was seriously ill with lupus, getting healthy again seemed like the beginning of an overwhelming, dauntless journey. I couldn’t help but wonder if changing my diet and lifestyle would really be enough to make any difference in my health. But when I added weekly reflexology sessions to my healthier eating habits, I saw an almost immediate improvement in pain, sleep, energy, anxiety, and depression. These results helped me keep making the diet and lifestyle changes I needed to make, until I eventually made a full recovery from lupus.
What I learned from my experience with reflexology—and what studies on the balance test show—is that we can take simple, strategic steps that yield big returns for our efforts. These include greatly improved overall health and wellness, a better quality of life, and even increased longevity.
Going to regular reflexology sessions is one such broadly beneficial step we can take. It’s also enjoyable, deeply relaxing and rejuvenating, and easy to include in your wellness routine.