A balance pad is a piece of foam, usually square in shape and 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 centimeters) thick. It is commonly used in physical rehabilitation and general strength training to improve balance because the soft, sponge-like material has a destabilizing effect when one stands upon it. Thus, muscles in the feet, ankles, and core are engaged in order to stay upright. A variety of exercises may be performed with a balance pad to achieve specific results by focusing on the core, legs, or upper body. The pads may also help alleviate pressure from joints while performing some exercise moves.
Balance pads are often used in physical therapy because the thick, nonslip foam surface provides a relatively safe and painless support for weak joints. Those who have been off their feet due to injury and now have atrophied muscles can use the pad to gradually build up large muscle groups. Many physical therapists believe that the positive results of a balance pad work especially well for senior citizens and physically handicapped patients. Furthermore, people with fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes extreme pain from even slight pressure, may also benefit from the use of foam pads during exercise.
Those who do not have problems with joints or muscles may still find beneficial results from using a balance pad for strength training. In everyday life, the average person does not often work muscles in the feet or core, which could lead to joint pain or lower back pain later in life. Even those who are considered physically fit can often improve balance, and foam pads are a fast and safe way to get results quickly.
A number of exercises can be performed with a balance pad. One can even benefit from simply standing on one foot on the pad. The soft foam causes the foot to sink into the pad; without a stable surface, one must rely on oft-neglected muscles in the feet to remain standing. This seemingly simple move actually requires many muscles to work together, from the foot up to the abs.
One may also focus on specific muscle groups while using a balance pad. Squats and lunges can be performed with both feet on pads to create more of a challenge. Push-ups and planks can target upper body strength when hands are placed on the squishy foam surface. One can challenge himself further by stacking two pads on top of each other to create a highly unstable surface. Balance pads are widely accepted as an effective way to improve joint and muscle strength and acquire a strong sense of balance. These results may help to alleviate pain and sculpt muscles for a toned look.