My Single Favourite Exercise to Help Your Whole Body

It’s a total paradox. In many ways, modern humans are way healthier than our ancient ancestors.

We live longer, we grow taller, we suffer less from infectious diseases, and we’re unlikely to be eaten by wild animals.

But so many of us now live with debilitating chronic diseases that were unknown in the Stone Age. 

Heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, lower back pain, flat feet and myopia are all examples of diseases that result from modern lifestyles that feature large amounts of poor quality food and minimal amounts of movement.

Usually these issues don’t appear until middle age, so we associate them with aging – but they are mostly avoidable.

One simple way to keep your body healthy is to choose better shoes.

Modern shoes are the main source of foot pain, and they contribute to many body issues like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and lower back pain.

I recommend that all my clients consider transitioning to minimal footwear. This means shoes that feature:

  • Flexible soles
  • No lift in the heel (this is REALLY common – even your most comfy runners probably have a heel lift) – look for footwear that says it is ‘zero drop’
  • A wide toe box so you can spread your toes
  • No lift at the toe (called toe spring – this leads to hammertoes)
  • Full and secure attachment to your foot (so no flipflops, Birkenstocks or slip ons)

Minimal footwear has gotten a bad rap – mostly because a lot of people tried to transition too fast. Feet that have spent a life time in regular shoes aren’t ready to go minimal right away!

Here’s some info on how to make the transition and a list of some of my favourite minimal shoe options.

Whether or not you’re ready to make the switch to minimal, here’s one simple exercise that can make your feet – and whole body – feel so much better.

If I had to pick any single exercise that can help every single body, this is the one. And it’s really easy!

All you need is an old tennis ball. Start by sitting down. Grab your ball, place it under your foot, and start rolling it around.

Explore your foot with the ball – massaging under your arch, under the ball of your foot, and back and forth along the long bones. Go easy at first – if your feet are out of shape this can be really intense. Find the good bits, be gentle on the ouch-y bits.

After a couple of minutes, pause and notice how your feet feel. Then switch sides.

As your feet get stronger and more mobile, you can advance this by doing it standing up. I roll my feet while I drink my morning coffee!

What’s so great about this (apart from how good it feels) is that it doesn’t just help your feet. Because it affects your fascia, or connective tissue, it can affect your entire body, all the way up to your neck.

Make this simple exercise part of your daily routine and your body will thank you!

Then if you’re ready for more, you can start rethinking your shoe wardrobe!


About the Author:

Petra Fisher is a Restorative Exercise Specialist, certified by Nutritious Movement to teach corrective exercise. She has a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. When she's not teaching, you'll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars. She is also a teacher trainer for Nutritious Movement, and an instructor for the international Move Your DNA workshop program. She’s also a certified personal trainer and a recovering lawyer. Petra blogs at Petra Fisher Movement.

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