We all know the value of exercise and have heard the old adage “Use it or lose it”, which is very true. However almost no one seems to apply that to ankles or feet.
When headed to the gym or considering exercise no one says “hey, its ankle day!” and most peoples routine leg days do nothing at all to focus on the foot or ankle. As we get older that becomes problematic. Remaining fully mobile is key to staying as healthy as possible. When you lose mobility, you can bring on a whole range of potential health pit falls including the obvious one, stiffness and ensuing pain.
There are twenty muscles in the foot itself and two large powerful muscles in the ankle which allow us to push down with our foot as well as stand up on our toes. These two large muscles join at the ankle to form the Achilles tendon. They include the gastrocnemius and the soleus (calf) muscles.
Many older adults complain of stiffness and achiness in their feet and ankles making it tough to get around just doing every day things.
We hate seeing people in pain when it can be prevented.
We wanted today to give you a few very easy exercises that take less than 15 minutes a day and can be done at every age that can strengthen and even reverse mobility lost. When beginning they may seem hard or even make your muscles ache the next day or day after but be sure that is a sign of muscle strengthening not injury so keep going, take warm Epsom salts baths, and just hang in there, the results are worth it.
What you need: 1 rubber sheet exercise band. The colors are for different resistance amounts most people are good to start with a red one. They can be found online or at any sporting good store. They are called Therabands and are a thin rubber sheet. You will also need 1 coffee cup or Tupper Wear container, a hand towel, and a dozen marbles.
Exercise 1: Tie a small, looped knot in the band at the end. This will go around your foot at where your toes meet the base of the foot. Sit upright in a chair, feet on the floor. Place the band loop around your foot and hold the end of the band up by your knee to hold tension in it. Then press your foot down to the floor just like you would the gas peddle in the car. You should feel slight resistance. Repeat this 20x. Start with 1 set. Work your way up to 3 sets. Repeat on the other ankle.
Exercise 2: Stay in the same position as exercise 1. Keep it around your foot. Let go of it with your hand and place the end under your other foot to hold it steady. Stand on it while sitting. You can also hold the end of it tight just to keep it there. With this motion you are going to keep your heel on the floor and rotate the whole front of the foot sideways going outward. The resistance will try and bring it back in toward your other foot. Repeat this 20x. This is one set. Again, work your way up to 3 sets but start with just one even if it seems easy. Repeat with the other ankle.
Exercise 3: This exercise uses the container, towel, and marbles. Sitting in the chair still, lay down the towel on the floor. Place the container by your foot and put the marbles on the towel. Now pick up the marbles with your toes and put them in the container. We don’t often use our toes, and this can be a challenge at first. It will get easier over time. Repeat with each foot.
Exercise 4: This one requires no equipment at all. Stand where you can hang on to something if you need to. Raise yourself up on your toes and back down to flat footed. Repeat this 10 to 20 times. This is one repetition. Start with 1 and work your way up to 3.
This set of exercises done even just a couple times per week can make a big difference in the strength and mobility you feel in your feet, ankles, and legs. It can greatly increase your overall movement and wellness.
Tip: Wearing a good custom made pair of orthotics (Foot Levelers) in your shoes can help balance your entire body, strengthen all muscles, and ease pain and tension. We create these for you in-house! Just ask.