Staying Active for Healthy Feet
There are many reasons to lead an active life. The physical benefits include weight management, reduced risk of various diseases (including diabetes), and a stronger body. Additionally, regular exercise leads to better overall mood, improved cognitive performance, and even more restful sleep. Now, if we were on an infomercial to promote physical activity this is the point we would say “But wait, there’s more!”
See, working out on a regular basis delivers a wide range of benefits, which means it is easy to overlook the benefits of exercise for foot health. Your feet and ankles work hard to support your body and keep you mobile, so take some time to give them a little attention!
Some of the benefits of exercise for foot health include:
- Improved circulation. Your feet need a healthy blood flow to receive nourishment, and exercise promotes strong circulation.
- Limber muscles. Limber muscles in your lower legs reduce your risk for injury.
- Stronger bones. Stress fractures are common overuse injuries, but strong bones (developed with exercise) are better equipped to handle force loads.
Exercise, Arthritis, and Foot Health
Further, one of the reasons you should consider staying active for your foot health is if you have an arthritic condition causing pain and difficulty in your lower limbs.
Exercise with arthritis might seem like a daunting task, but even a moderate level of activity is proven to ease your pain, increase joint mobility, and help you maintain a healthy weight. There are various workouts that can be beneficial, including range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. The key is simply to move because any movement can potentially help your condition.
If arthritis has held you back from being active, you will want to start out your arthritis exercise program slowly and gradually build up the duration and intensity of your workout sessions. As you do this, it is essential that you stay aware and listen to your body. If you have a flare-up, rest 2 to 3 days before resuming activity. There is no need to unnecessarily push through pain, so take the time to recover.
Exercise and Diabetes Management
Healthy eating is essential for diabetes management, but so too is exercising on a regular basis!
Why is regular exercise an important part of managing diabetes? Well, physical activity done on a routine basis can negate—and in some cases even reverse—damage done by elevated glucose levels. Examples of this damage includes impaired immune function, constricted blood vessels, and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage).
Exercise is proven to lower blood sugar levels. This happens when muscles contract during physical activity as you move your body. During muscular contraction, your cells are able to uptake glucose and burn it for energy, regardless as to whether or not insulin is available. Additionally, physical activity is proven to increase insulin sensitivity. This means your muscles cells are then better able to use available insulin for glucose uptake during and following your exercises.
More simply put, physical activity lowers blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours (and sometimes longer) after you are done working out!
Exercising is incredibly beneficial for your body and managing glucose levels, but you do have to be smart about this. If you try to do too much at first—and especially if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle—it can be a problem. A better approach than jumping off the couch and trying to run a marathon is to start your new, doctor-approved, workout program with lower amounts of physical exertion.
A key part of ensuring your safety as you start working to improve your physical health is to partner with an experienced medical team, including our professionals here at Wilks Advanced Foot Care!
So why should you talk to a podiatrist when creating an exercise plan if you have diabetes? Well, certain activities and exercises can place a lot of force on your lower limbs. Also, you need to consider how the disease itself affects your feet.
Nerve damage that often accompanies diabetes can make it difficult (or even impossible) to feel injuries and damage in your lower extremities. The problem with this is other conditions can become serious medical complications – namely diabetic foot ulcers and Charcot foot.
This means you have to take some measures to make sure you’re exercising safely. This includes getting doctor approval beforehand, wearing well-fitting shoes that are activity-appropriate and podiatrist-approved, staying hydrated, packing a diabetic snack, and easing gradually into the activity.
With regards to the best exercises for diabetes, here are some of the top choices:
- Walking is easy, low-impact, and you can do it virtually anywhere.
- Swimming is a low-impact, total body workout.
- Stationary biking provides the benefit of biking without the risk of a fall.
- Weight-lifting strengthens your body and is especially effective in combination with an aerobic activity.
- Yoga and Tai Chi are exercise options that use slow, relaxed movements and poses to build strength, improve balance, and reduce stress.
Something common amongst these activities is the fact they are all low-impact, which means not too much force is being placed on your lower limbs. High-impact activities like running or court sports (basketball, tennis, etc.) could put you at heightened risk for injury and are probably best avoided. (This is something to be discussed with your primary care provider or our team here at Wilks Advanced Foot Care.)
No matter which exercise you do, make sure you choose something you enjoy. In doing so, you’ll be more likely to stick to your exercise routine.
Tips for Optimal Foot Health (When You’re Active)
You have plenty of incentives to stay active for the health of your feet (and body, as a whole), but it is important to stay safe when you are active. There is always a certain degree of injury risk when you work out, but you can help to manage this risk by:
- Wearing the correct footwear. Now, it is definitely important to wear activity-appropriate footwear, but you also need to make sure your feet fit correctly. This means choosing footwear that is neither too small, nor too large. Athletic shoes should also offer robust arch support and feature ample cushioning.
- Easing into activity. One of the easiest ways to get hurt is trying to do too much, too soon. Instead, start new activities or running programs at an easy level and then slowly build up the intensity and duration over time.
- Always warm up and stretch. Take some time before getting into the core of your workout to elevate your heart level and prepare your muscles and connective tissues with a warmup and some dynamic stretches.
Finally, once you have made up your mind to improve your health by being more physically active it is important you stay with it.
Here are some tips to help you keep your fitness goals:
- Write down your exercising goals. People who put their goals down on paper are more likely to achieve them than those who do not. Then make it visible by posting it where you will see it often.
- Be specific about your goals. “Getting into shape” is admirable, but define what that actually means to you. This will enable you to build a concrete plan that you can follow. It will also help you establish steps of smaller goals that lead to your overall one.
- Start with small workout sessions and build up. You could try hitting the gym for an hour a day, five times a week from the get-go, but you will likely burn out. A more realistic plan is to set an initial goal of going 3 days a week for 20-30 minutes per session. Build up from there.
- Recruit help. This can mean either letting people know your new goals so they can offer emotional support, or you might want a workout buddy to help you stay accountable.
Professional Foot Care for When You Need It
Physical activity is essential for healthy, fit feet, but it’s true there is always an inherent injury risk that comes with exercising. If you develop a lower limb injury while running or working out, contact our team at Wilks Advanced Foot Care by calling (541) 673-0742. We will provide additional information or help you schedule an appointment with our Roseburg, OR office so you can receive the treatment you need.