Last week, I wrote about an often overlooked portion of a person’s basic physical infrastructure than can cause problems specifically for older adults at the beginning of an exercise program. Your ankles are another often overlooked weak point in the physical infrastructure for seniors. Yet your ankles allow your foot to be flexible when you walk, run, or even when you are simply getting up out of a chair. They help you stand upright and help you to maintain your balance. They help support the weight of your body when you stand.
Some of the ankle problems you may have encountered include:
- Numbness, and a “pins and needles” feeling in the area of your ankles are common problems among older adults. This can result from poor circulation or possibly a nerve problem. If this is the case, you probably should check with your doctor to see what the underlying cause may be. Often the circulation problem can be cured with exercise.
- Ankles are weak or in poor condition. This can cause soreness, or more importantly can result in twisted ankles and falling. Falling is the leading cause of emergency room visits among older adults over sixty. You can shore up the muscles, ligaments and tendons that make up your ankle infrastructure with some of the exercises I describe below.
- There are ligaments and tendons and connecting tissue -surrounding your ankles. Often there is inflammation. Sometimes exercise and inflammation fighting alkaline foods can help. Read that “more veggies”. In other cases, your doctor may want you on arthritis medication. Check with your doctor.
Here are a few simple and useful exercises to start you on your way to stronger ankles. Start slowly. Over time your ankles will become stronger and more flexible.
- Heel-Toe stretches/Windshield Wipers/Rotations. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, toes straight up. With your heels on the floor, bend your ankles, pushing you toes away from you as far as you can. Then pull your toes back toward you as far as you can. Push and pull your toes back and forth just a little past your comfort zone. Do this ten to fifteen times in a row.”
After you have done ten or fifteen repetitions, keep your legs straight and your toes pointed up. Move your feet back and forth like the windshield wipers in a car. Do ten to fifteen each.Finally, rotate your feet in circles, ten times in each direction. All of that will give your ankles a good workout. They may be a little bit sore at first. Just don’t overdo it.
- Calf Raises. Stand erect on the floor while you hold onto a chair or something stable for support. Raise up on your toes with both feet. When you come back down, pull your toes up off the floor. Repeat this ten times. This is actually an exercise for your calf muscles, but will strengthen your ankles as well – two for one. When you get used to this, try the same movement on one leg at a time.
- Brisk Walking. If you haven’t walked for a long time, your ankles are in for a surprise. They’ll probably be quite sore after a brisk twenty minute walk. If you are walking moderately fast, you will walk one mile in twenty minutes. Walk a little faster and you can do a mile in fifteen minutes. That’s not dawdling down the path, that’s brisk walking at 3 and 4 miles per hour. There are those who believe that fast walking is the best exercise an older adult can do. It’s certainly one of them,
Do these exercises and your ankles will get stronger and more flexible. You’ll add another layer of prevention when it comes to avoiding falling. Believe it or not, you’ll find it easier to get up out of a chair, particularly a deep or low chair when your ankles are stronger and more flexible.
Next week, I’ll write about another often overlooked but important part of your physical infrastructure — Your neck. I’ll show some simple ways to strengthen your neck and make it more flexible. It might just help you tighten your sagging chin and jawline too.
Thank you for reading.
Bob McMillan is a blogger, writer and speaker on the subject of Health, Fitness and Personal Energy for Active Seniors. He also holds a Personal Trainer Certification, and designation as a Senior Fitness Specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Bob is 75 years old.