More than 24 million people participate in some kind of aerobic exercise, which offers a host of health benefits, including increased cardiopulmonary efficiency, strengthened heart and lungs, improved circulation, lowered cholesterol levels, and stress and anxiety reduction. Of course, consult with your physician before beginning any aerobics program.
Because aerobic dancing involves quick lateral movements, jumping, and leaping for extended periods of time, proper foot care plays a vital part in keeping the entire body fit.
If your feet suffer from excess pronation or supination (inward or outward ankle turning), it's especially important to consult with me. I may recommend controlling these motions with an orthotic shoe insert.
Injuries are common in activities such as aerobics, and often involve the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Improper shoes, surfaces, or routines, and straining muscles by too vigorous a routine can lead to foot problems.
Experts say that hardwood floors, especially with padded mats, are the best surfaces for your feet during aerobic exercise.
Exercise those Toes
Many people underestimate the importance of keeping their toes physically fit. Toes take a lot of abuse from the hours we spend on our feet each day. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends doing the following simple exercises to strengthen your toes and prevent foot discomfort.
Toe raise, toe point, toe curl: Hold each position for five seconds and repeat 10 times. This especially recommended for people with hammertoes or toe cramps.
Toe squeeze: Place cigarette filters or small corks between your toes and hold a squeeze for five seconds. Do this 10 times. Recommended for people with hammertoes and toe cramps.
Big toe pulls: Place a thick rubber band around the big toes and pull them away from each other and toward the small toes. Hold for five seconds and repeat 10 times. Recommended for people with bunions or toe cramps.
Toe pulls: Put a thick rubber band around all of your toes and spread them. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat 10 times. This is especially good for people with bunions, hammertoes or toe cramps.
Golf ball roll: Roll a golf ball under the ball of your foot for two minutes. This is a great massage for the bottom of the foot and is recommended for people with plantar fasciitis (heel pain), arch strain or foot cramps.
Towel curls: Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you, using only your toes. You can increase the resistance by putting a weight on the end of the towel. Relax and repeat this exercise five times. Recommended for people with hammertoes, toe cramps and pain in the ball of the foot.
Marble pick-up: Place 20 marbles on the floor. Pick up one marble at a time and put it in a small bowl. Do this exercise until you have picked up all 20 marbles. Recommended for people with pain in the ball of the foot, hammertoes and toe cramps.
Sand walking: Take off your shoes and walk in the sand at the beach. This not only massages your feet, but also strengthens your toes and is good for general foot conditioning.
Fitness and Your Feet
Your feet are one of the most overlooked body parts when it comes to exercise. As you exercise, pay attention to what your feet are telling you.
Consult your physician before beginning any fitness program. This includes a complete physical and foot exam. This is especially important for those who are overweight, smoke, or haven't had a physical exam in a long time.
Proper fitness requires wearing the right clothes and shoes. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored and loosely woven clothing in hot weather and several layers of warm clothing in cold weather.
The American Podiatric Medical Association stresses the importance of foot care in exercising. People don't realize the tremendous pressure that is put on their feet while exercising. For example, a 150-pound jogger puts more than 150 tons runs of impact on his feet when running three miles.
Improper foot care during exercise is a contributing factor to some of the more than 300 foot ailments, according to the APMA.
The following are common ailments caused by improper foot care during exercise:
- Athlete's foot
- Corns and calluses
- Heel pain (including heel spurs)
During jogging or running, 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels all work together. Experts say jogging requires a slow and steady approach. Proper pacing, shoes, and stretching routines are a must.
Avoid using just any pair of sneakers lying around the house, however. And if you are overweight, you might consider a less strenuous but beneficial activity such as bicycling or swimming.
Some experts advise alternating your regime between walking and jogging. Plan a regular routine and stick with it. If you are an active and regular runner or jogger, we can check for any potential stress on your lower extremities.
Avoiding Injuries and Pain
Debilitating muscle strain or more serious injury often result when runners or joggers don't slowly evolve their routine from slow to vigorous. A four-day-per-week conditioning program for 12-16 weeks is generally a good program to follow.
You can also prevent injuries by using proper foot hygiene. Keep your feet powdered and dry. This helps prevent blisters.
If you develop recurring and increasing aches and pains from jogging, discontinue and contact our office.
The most common injuries associated with jogging and running are:
- Runner's knee. This is a common term for knee pain. Excessive pronation, or rolling in and down, of the foot, is often the culprit. We may recommend orthoses (arch supports or shoe inserts) to alleviate the problem.
Shin splints are pain to either side of the leg bone, caused by muscle or tendon inflammation. It is commonly related to a collapsing arch, but may be related to a muscle imbalance between opposing muscle groups in the leg.
Proper stretching and corrective shoes or shoe inserts for pronation can help prevent shin splints.
Before beginning an exercise regimen, proper stretching is essential. If muscles are properly warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons, and joints is reduced.
Stretching exercises should take 5-10 minutes, and ought to be conducted in a stretch/hold/relax pattern without any bouncing or pulling. It is important to stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior), and not forget the anterior muscles.
Some effective stretching exercises include:
- The wall push-up. Face a wall from three feet away, with feet flat on the floor, and knees locked. Lean into the wall, keeping feet on the floor and hold for 10 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat five times.
- The hamstring stretch. Put your foot, with knee straight, locked, on a chair or table. Keep the other leg straight with knee locked. Lower your head toward the knee until the muscles are tight. Hold to a count of 10 then relax. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.
- Lower back stretch. In a standing position, keep both legs straight, feet spread slightly. Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the palms of your hands to the floor. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Excessive tightness of the calf muscles can contribute to many foot problems and some knee problems. A key point of injury is the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the back of the heel. When the calf muscle tightens up, it limits the movement of the ankle joint.
Calf muscle stretching is very useful in the treatment of many foot disorders and for the prevention of foot problems. Two typical methods for stretching your calf muscles include:
The conventional method most runners use while facing and leaning into a wall.
An alternative method of standing approximately two feet from a wall. While facing the wall, turn your feet inward ("pigeon toed") and lean forward into the wall, keeping your heels on the floor and the knees extended. Keep your back straight and don't bend at the hips. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and do the stretch 10 times in a row.
About 67 million men and women in this country have discovered how walking is one of the most fun, natural, and inexpensive ways of keeping your feet in top shape.
The basic kind of walking often called health walking can be done almost anywhere and at any time, year around.
For those with a long history of inactivity, problems with obesity, or who just don't like strenuous activity, walking is an excellent way to begin an exercise program.
Exercise walking has a host of benefits, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Walking helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile or 300 calories per hour.
Walking also improves cardiovascular fitness. As an aerobic exercise, walking gets the heart beating faster to transport oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the muscles. The heart and lungs grow more efficient with a regular walking regimen, reducing blood pressure and the resting heart rate. Walking is even a central element of medical rehabilitation.
Recovery from many ailments, including heart attack, is facilitated by a regular walking regimen.
In addition, walking creates an overall feeling of well-being, and can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress by producing endorphins, the body's natural tranquilizer. A brisk walk will relax you and also stimulate your thinking.
If you are more than 40 years old and have any problems with weight, respiration, blood pressure, pulse rate, or cholesterol, check with your doctor before beginning a walking regimen. The same goes for diabetics, smokers, or people with preexisting injuries or a family history of heart problems.
Walking can help you:
- Strengthen your heart and lungs, and improve circulation
- Prevent heart attacks and strokes
- Reduce obesity and high blood pressure
- Boost your metabolic rate
- Favorably alter your cholesterol
- Improve muscle tone in your legs and abdomen
- Reduce stress and tension
- Reduce arthritis pain; stop bone tissue decay
Foot care and walking
Don't neglect your feet when embarking on a walking regimen. Wear thick, absorbent socks (acrylic is preferable to cotton); dry feet well after bathing, paying special attention to the toes, and use powder before putting on shoes. Nails should be cut regularly, straight across the toe.
Avoid self-treatment of corns and calluses with over-the-counter remedies before starting to walk. And if you have bunions or hammertoes, consult first with blisters develop, self-treatment by opening them with a sterilized needle and draining the fluid. Cover the treated blister with antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.