Humans may not come with instruction manuals, but everyone knows there are some things that simply must be done for optimal health. After all, you probably won’t be surprised to hear anyone tell you how important it is to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise on a regular basis!
What is less-commonly known—or at least less-often considered—is how important these things are for the health of your feet. Today, let’s take a look at how exercise relates to the health of your feet, and what you can do to keep your lower limbs healthy (so you can stay mobile and independent).
Now, there are several ways exercise and foot health go together, including:
Supplying better circulation. A healthy blood flow is essential for ensuring the feet and toes receive the nourishment they need. A regular exercise program helps to promote better circulation, but it can also force the muscles to become more efficient in absorbing oxygen.
Improving flexibility. Many foot and ankle issues arise when connective tissues (ligaments, tendons) are excessively tight and have poor range of motion. An exercise regimen containing proper stretches can keep soft tissues flexible and better equipped to move in a natural manner.
Managing bodyweight. It’s really no big secret that exercise is an important part of losing and maintaining body weight, but not enough people consider what this really means for the lower limbs. Walking is a low-impact activity, but it still applies one and a half times an individual’s bodyweight on the lower limbs with every step you take. Working out, in conjunction with a sensible diet plan, reduces the amount of physical force loads placed on the feet and ankles. In turn, this reduces the risk of injuries.
Building stronger muscles. Muscles obviously play a major role in allowing the human body to move, but they also benefit your lower limb health by helping to absorb some of the physical forces endured by feet and ankles. When muscles are weak, they are unable to do this, which then results in additional stress being absorbed by bone tissue. This can cause stress fractures, but strong muscles reduce the risk of these common overuse injuries.
Of course, it matters which kinds of exercises you are performing – since not all exercises are the same!
There can be benefits from high-impact activities—those featuring lots of running and jumping—but it is important not to use them too frequently, as this can put you at risk for various foot and ankle injuries. Instead, swap out a couple of days of running during the week with sessions of low-impact exercises.
Some lower-impact exercises that are particularly great for your foot health include:
Cycling. Whereas running can elevate your heartrate and burn many calories, you can achieve those objectives from cycling, except you will not place as much stress on your lower limbs.
Swimming. Swimming is an entire body workout. When kicking, you are working the muscles in the lower body, but the entire activity provides remarkable cardiovascular benefits. Additionally, swimming and aquatic exercises are great for those who suffer from edema (swollen feet).
Walking. This might not be the most exciting of all the exercise options, but it is truly an all-star one for the health of your lower limbs. Walking is an ideal way to improve blood flow to (and from) your feet, while at the same time training the muscles to more efficiently absorb oxygen.
Yoga. When people think about health and fitness, flexibility tends to be overlooked in favor of strength and endurance. Flexibility and range-of-motion, though, are essential for reducing foot and ankle injury risk. Yoga provides these benefits through the various poses held during a session.
There are certainly other ways of exercising—like lifting weights and running—but these low-impact exercises are all excellent ways to make sure your feet are in tiptop shape!
Remember, there’s always a certain degree of injury risk during any physical activity. If you are hurt and in need of foot or ankle treatment, contact our team here at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates. Call us today at (309) 661-9975 for more information.