Exercise & Your Feet
Summary of Chapter 25
My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 now and we don’t know where the hell she is.– Ellen DeGeneres
Exercise & Your Feet
We all know how important it is to be physically active. Exercising helps prevent an array of health conditions, burns calories so you can lose weight and keeps those pounds from creeping back on. It can also improve and maintain your body’s flexibility and tighten and tone your muscles. Of course, when muscles and ligaments are being used regularly, your joints will work properly, too. In a sense, if you neglect to “oil” your joints, they will “rust up” on you. (And who wants to be the Tin Man?)
Aerobic exercise – like running, walking, swimming or bicycling – helps strengthen your heart and burn calories. It also releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins.
Plus, weight-bearing exercise – like walking, running, hiking, and dancing – helps increase your bone density to stave off conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis that increase your risk of fractures. These types of exercises cause your body to bear weight, which stimulates your bones to make more cells – called osteoblasts- and your bones get stronger as a result.
Another important form of physical activity is stretching. This helps increase the flexibility of your muscles and joints to help prevent injury. Strength training and stretching also help improve your balance, which is another thing that tends to worsen as we age and is the reason for so many falls that result in bone fractures. One out of three people over 60 years old experience a fall. Doing balance exercises can prevent this.
Barefoot running has gained popularity in recent years, especially among elite runners. Proponents of running without shoes say that it is more natural (the argument goes that our caveman ancestors didn’t wear Adidas or New Balance shoes to hunt and gather) and that it uses less energy because you’re not expending the effort to lift a bulky sneaker. As a result, you may be able to go faster. Elite runners are said to favor barefoot running as a way of strengthening their feet. However, to date there simply isn’t enough scientific research on the subject to prove its benefits, especially for the average runner. Obvious downsides include a lack of support to the foot and the risk of stepping directly onto sharp objects like glass, sticks, or nails. There’s also a risk of picking up foreign bodies that can cause infections and illness.Running in minimalist shoes has recently gained popularity. Lighter in weight than traditional versions, they have very little cushioning, lower heels, and no motion-control features. Many of these shoes look like gloves for your feet and were originally designed for elite runners. Again, more scientific evidence is needed to determine their benefits over traditional running shoes. It is clear, however, that these minimalist shoes offer less support for the foot and protection from things like sharp objects. I think some of these minimalist shoes are good for yoga or ballet-inspired classes. With both barefoot and minimalist shoe running it is important to take time to transition your body from regular shoes; some experts recommend several months to a year, or even more. It’s also important to strengthen your feet, ankles, and lower legs before running barefoot or using minimalist shoes because the impact/pressure placed upon on areas of your foot and lower leg is different than it is with traditional running shoes. Without these precautions, you increase your risk of injury. In fact, many of my colleagues in podiatry and sports medicine have seen a rise in Achilles tendon injuries and stress fractures related to these new forms of running. If you’re interested in either of these forms of running, I suggest first seeing a podiatrist. A podiatrist can analyze your gait, biomechanics, and fitness level to determine if barefoot or minimalist running is for you.The following stretching exercises are great for your legs and feet – and the rest of your body. Try to hold each one for 20-30 seconds and make sure to switch sides and repeat. You can do these all at once or do one or two throughout your day. Make sure to stretch gently and never force yourself to go deeper than you’re comfortable with. Again, listen to your body! Stretch it!
In this chapter of My Feet Are Killing Me Dr. Levine discusses:
- Walk This Way
- Fit in Fitness
- Cross training
- Preventing exercise-related injuries
- Warning for Weekend Warriors
- Barefoot running
- Stretch It
- One workout to avoid
- Feet and Exercise at Higher Elevation
- Exercise & Injuries Index