Aquatic Exercise for Ankles
Ankles take a lot of beating, and water is an ideal environment for preventative fitness. By exercising in a multidirectional resistive medium, increased overall strength and mobility in your ankles can be developed. Aquatic exercises help improve range of motion, increase flexibility and guard against ankle stiffness and injury. Enhance the overall health and fitness level of your ankles by performing aquatic exercises that strengthen both forward and backward movements, as well as side-to-side motions.
Commit the initial 10 minutes of your workout with aquatic multidirectional warm-up exercises to raise your body temperature and increase the blood flow to your muscles. To perform warm-up laps, stand in chest-high water and walk forward to the opposite side of the pool. After five minutes of laps, side step across the pool. Lead with your right foot and bring your feet together after each step. Lead with your left foot on the way back to the starting point.
To increase range of motion and flexibility while lubricating the ankle joint, perform simple aquatic ankle rolls. In waist-high water, stand with your back against the wall of the pool with your arms resting along the edge for balance. Lift one leg off the pool bottom and extend it out in front of you. Point your toes and draw imaginary circles. Draw 10 circles to the right before switching to the left. To move your ankle through the largest range of motion possible, instead of circles, try writing your name and address with your toes.
When executed properly, aquatic ankle inversions not only build endurance but also strengthen and stretch the ligaments, tendons and muscles on the sides of your ankles and lower legs. Stand next to the pool wall in waist-high water with your feet flat on the pool bottom. Gently press the big toe side of your foot against the wall until you feel a stretch in your ankle and outer leg. Hold for a count of 10, then relax for a count of five. Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times before switching to the opposite ankle.
Ankle eversions offer similar benefits to ankle inversions in preventing stiffness. To strengthen and stretch the ligaments, tendons and muscles of your inner leg and ankle, stand next to a pool wall in waist-high water with your feet planted flat on the pool bottom. Gently press the lateral, or little toe, side of your foot against the wall for a count of 10. Rest for five seconds, then repeat the movement. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions before switching to your opposite ankle.
Cool-down calf stretches held for 30 seconds help muscles relax, realign muscle fibers and increase mobility in your lower legs and ankles. To perform calf stretches in the pool, stand in chest-high water with one leg in front of the other and your hands flat against the pool wall. Keeping your leg and spine in a line, slide your back leg further away from the wall. Gently press the heel of your foot into the pool bottom until you feel the stretch in the calf of your rear leg. Repeat the movements with your opposite leg, completing 10 repetitions on each side.
Use gentle, smooth movements when performing aquatic exercises. Never bounce. If you experience discomfort, move to chest-high water for less weight-bearing movements. If pain occurs, stop immediately. To optimally isolate the ankle, execute ankle inversions and ankle eversions with your knees flexed so that stronger leg muscles don't overcompensate.
- Water Exercises; Martha White
- Swimming Past 50; Mel Goldstein and Dave Tanner
- Stretching for 50+; Karl Knopf, M.D.
- Stretching For Fitness, Health & Performance; Christopher A. Oswald, M.D. and Stanley N. Basco, M.D.
Susan DeFeo has been a professional writer since 1997. She served as a community events columnist for New Jersey's "Cape May County Herald" for more than a decade and currently covers the family and pet beat for CBS Philadelphia. Her health, fitness, beauty and travel articles have appeared in various online publications. DeFeo studied visual communications at SUNY Farmingdale.