– Co-authored by Brandi Rosser, Certified Personal Trainer with LuciFit
How often do you exercise your ankles and calf muscles?
Once per week? Once every couple of months? Or has it been so long that you can’t remember the last time you worked them?
If you hardly ever exercise your lower leg, you’re not alone. Most people focus on training thighs and glutes and forget about the calves and ankles. The assumption is “they get a workout from walking around so why bother?” But we all should bother. As it turns out the movements of walking, and even running, probably don’t give our lower leg muscles the workout they need in order to stay strong.
A recent study suggests strengthening calves and ankles could be key to avoiding injuries and falls
and offers another positive message about maintaining our weight as we age.
The study was published in January 2016, in an issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise under researchers at Wake Forest University, the U.S. Army and East Carolina University (1). Researchers set out to determine the factors that differentiate injury-free from injured runners. The study was done over the course of a year, collecting data from 110 male and female runners aged 20-60 years old. Here’s what they found:
1.) Runners aged 30-59 had body mass and BMI values only slightly higher than those aged 20-29.
Thus it was concluded that body weight and BMI can be enhanced in sedentary middle-aged adults who participate in long-term running behavior (2).
2.) Although older runners were able to maintain a healthy body weight and BMI value as they aged, ankle and calf muscle function decreased significantly.
Researchers concluded it most likely that this decrease in ankle and calf muscle function is related to the increase in achilles and calf muscle injuries that occurs more often in older runners (2). And finally,
3.) Older adults (aged 70 years and older) lost even more muscle function at their ankle than they did at their hips.
Researchers concluded that the decrease in lower leg strength and ability could be more related to falls than previously expected (2).
That being said, it’s pretty easy to avoid losing function in your ankles and calves
just add heel-raises into your strength routine twice per week. Watch this short video on how to do these simple exercises.
It’s never too late to make a healthy change in your life that can have long-term benefits.
Go for it!
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1.) Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Jan;48(1):98-106. The Relationships between Age and Running Biomechanics. Devita, Fellin RE, Seay, Stavro N, Messier SP.
2.) ACSM Blog, http://www.acsm.org/public-information/acsm-blog/acsm-blog/2016/05/16/active-voice-running-biomechanics-from-ages-20-to-60-what-s-going-on-at-the-ankle