For 2016 (and beyond): It’s all in the ankles

Actress and singer Gaby Deslys (1881-1920), circa 1913 (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Actress and singer Gaby Deslys (1881-1920), circa 1913 (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Before you read this post, try to balance yourself on one foot. Focus on doing 60 seconds on each leg. How did it go? Did you make it to the end?

Ankles. To a great extent, our longevity depends on them. Strong ankles = good balance, and good balance is a key ingredient to keeping people mobile and fall-free as they age. Obviously, at this point most of us are not going to train to become ballerinas or danseurs, but no matter how old we are we need to strive to achieve our best balance, best range of motion, and best levels of strength and endurance, if we want to stick around and be independent for as long as possible.

So what’s all that got to do with a family history blog? Well, I care about all my readers for one thing. For another, when we look back in our family trees of all those who have since passed on, we see two dates against each name. As the pastor said one Sunday (his misuse of grammar intentional): “Ain’t none of us gettin’ outta here alive.” Why not do everything we can on our part to ensure that when our time comes, those two dates are as far apart as possible?

Time is not kind to ankles. If left to their own devices, the ankles of both men and women slowly weaken and lose their ability to move in all those different directions to the extent that was previously possible. In fact, women in their 80s can experience up to an 85% decrease in ankle range of motion. Yes, ladies, it’s true. Hearing that a few years ago was a wake-up call for me. Maybe it will sound some alarm bells for you, too.

Men are not in the same dire straits, but things can get pretty bad for them as well. And, when your ability to flex, extend, invert and evert your ankles deteriorates, your balance deteriorates and then the body starts trying to compensate for that deterioration in different, unhelpful ways.

So if you have not done so already, I want to encourage you to find your own strategy for working on your balance, posture, and maintaining good muscle strength. And moving (!)—the more the better.  It’s absolutely never to late to make improvements. If you’re not sure how to start, talk to your doctor or drop by to ask a physical therapist what they’d recommend for you. Start slow. Practice standing on one leg at a time every day. One good ankle exercise, with toe pointed and knee extended: spell the alphabet with your big toe each day, one foot at a time. How simple is that? As easy as A-B-C… 😉

Resources:
Fix Your Weak Foundation: Your Ankles by Jeff Kuhland
12 Ways to Build Ankle Strength for Top Performance
Ankle-strengthening exercises
Ankle-foot Range of Motion exercises

Categories: Health Matters, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “For 2016 (and beyond): It’s all in the ankles

  1. Love this!

    Like

  2. Barbara Brodhead

    Good reminder!! I have been physically active all my life and hope to remain so as long as possible. I was recently diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees, which was very hard for me to hear, but I am trying not to let it get the best of me. I keep walking and doing what I can for exercise.
    Also, the ankle exercises you described are exactly right! Two years ago I fell and badly sprained my right ankle. The doctor told me to continue to move my ankle in rotations and to write the alphabet with my toes and ankles to keep the flexibility. This also helps prevent future sprains. And there’s no such thing as “just a sprain!” They are very painful and should be cared for properly.
    Thank you for your sound advice!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

    • In your case, I was preaching to the choir! It’s good you have that awareness. Many people don’t, and the sooner you know this stuff the earlier you can take action. I know what you mean about sprains. I’ve just spent the last 9 weeks getting over an MCL sprain, and it’s still not completely healed. Fortunately no tears, but still, this process seems to take forever!

      Like

  3. Excellent post. I am very, very good at balancing on my right foot at the moment, as being on crutches demands it. I look forward to testing the other foot soon!

    Like

  4. Peggy and I do Qigong every morning, which helps with both balance and flexibility. We also walk a lot, usually over uneven ground, which helps to build an maintain both ankle strength and balance. –Curt

    Like

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