There are so many reasons to lead an active lifestyle that it would be virtually impossible to list all of them. Just considering physical benefits, we are talking about things like improved cardiovascular function, reduced risk of disease (including diabetes), and weight management.
From an emotional standpoint, regular exercise is proven to contribute to better overall mood and reduced levels of stress. If you work out with a partner or in a group—or you participate in a recreational sports league—there are social benefits as well.
If we were on an infomercial to promote physical activity, this is the point we’d say “But wait, there’s more!” Why? Because exercise has shown to improve cognitive performance and help you sleep better at night.
Not bad, huh?
With all of those—and countless other—benefits, it’s easy to overlook another reason you should stay physical active: the health of your feet!
We all lead busy lives and have so many distractions and stressors vying for our attention, which means it’s not difficult to take our lower limbs for granted. When you do pause for a moment to think about all they do for us, you can realize how much you depend on your feet and ankles. After all, they keep us mobile and support our body when we stand.
If you ever need another reason to exercise on a regular basis—even with all of those aforementioned ones—you may want to consider the fact that strong feet give you options in life and enable you to participate in your favorite activities.
Exercising contributes to your foot health in the following ways:
- Improved circulation. Exercise promotes strong circulation, which ensures the tissues in your feet receive the nourishment they need.
- Stronger bones. Everyone knows calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health, but weight-bearing exercises also enhance bone strength. This is important if you want to prevent painful stress fractures (a common overuse injury), since stronger bones are better able to handle force loads.
- Limber muscles and connective tissues. Keeping soft tissues—muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.—in your lower limbs loose and limber is a proven tactic for reducing injury risk. This is especially true in the cases of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis – major sources of adult heel pain.
You have plenty of incentives to stay active for the health of your body (and feet!), but it is important to take measures to lower your injury risk when you exercise or play sports. Some of the best tips for protecting your feet during physical activity include:
- Wear the correct footwear. This means both wearing activity-appropriate footwear and making sure your shoes fit correctly. Choose footwear that isn’t too big or too small. And pick pairs offering robust arch support, solid heel counters, and plenty of cushioning under the heel.
- Ease into new activities. One of the easiest ways to get hurt is trying to do too much, too soon. Instead of jumping right in with 100% effort, begin new activities or running programs at an easy level. Then gradually build up the intensity and duration over time.
- Always warm up and stretch first. Before you start your workout session or game, take the time to elevate your heart rate and prepare your muscles and connective tissues. 5-10 minutes of warming up with light jogging or brisk walking—followed by dynamic stretching—will go a long way towards keeping you safe and injury-free.
Now, you need to keep in mind the fact there is always a certain degree of inherent injury risk whenever we are in motion, and particularly when playing sports and exercising. You may not be able to eliminate all the risk, but measures like these can at least lessen it.
We hope you are able to stay safe while exercising and participating in favorite activities, but please know we can provide professional care if you need it.
In the event you do sustain a foot or ankle injury, contact our team at Ripepi Foot & Ankle Clinics and request an appointment with either of our Cleveland offices. Connect with us today for more information by calling (440) 843-3692