Over the many years that I have now been practicing and teaching Tai Chi. I can honestly say that there are three aspects that every individual must develop in themselves if they wish to improve their balance, irrespective of their age. Firstly they must learn to remain relaxed & loose (Song) within themselves and try not to tense or lock up their muscles and joints. Especially the more elderly individuals who can some times become very anxious and stressed mentally, which can obviously effect their confidence in being able to simply balance on one leg.
Secondly every individual has to develop their leg and core strength. This is developed in the practice of Tai Chi by firstly connecting their waist to their legs, then by making sure to place their bodyweight fully onto one leg at a time, alternating their bodyweight by shifting it from one leg to another as they perform their Tai Chi Movements. The next aspect to learn, is to then learn how to lift and lower the foot slowly onto the ground, irrespective of what direction the individual decides to step. For the individual to lift their foot off the ground they must learn to involve the gentle turning of the waist, using their core muscles and the big muscles in the thighs to lift and lower their foot back onto the ground.
Thirdly, each individual must perform their Tai Chi Stepping Methods (Bu Fa) in a very slow action. Moving slowly is the key trick to improving and maintaining each persons balance, as moving slowly really strengthens the weighted standing leg, as the individual lifts and lowers the foot off and back onto the ground they must develop a sense of control in the lifting and lowering of the foot. This can only be attained from the strength of the standing leg and for each individual to fully place their bodyweight fully onto it.
Obviously it is only through the regular daily practice of the Tai Chi sequence, remaining relaxed/loose both physically and mentally, making sure to shift the bodyweight onto one leg at a time and not to be caught using “Double Weighted Stances” (Shuang Zhong Shi), and to move as slowly as you can to develop the standing leg & core strength, and the great mind & body control that allows you to step lightly, smoothly and effortlessly in any direction. Individuals who have practiced Tai Chi with me in my classes and on my courses and workshops have quickly noticed how fit and strong their leg muscles become only after a few months of training in Tai Chi. To develop leg strength and fitness in Tai Chi it is not through fast, jerky kind of movements or exercises, but through very slow, relaxed, precise, controlled stepping and shifting of the bodyweight.