As one of the body’s major weight-bearing structures, the musculature of the ankle affects your ability to perform activities like running, jumping, and balancing. While it’s often overlooked, ankle stability is a key component of overall balance. This article will cover the role ankles play in balance and how you can strengthen your ankles to stay more steady on your feet and prevent the risk of injury.
The Ankle is Integral to Balance
Balance is the ability to evenly distribute weight, enabling you to remain upright and steady on your feet. Having good balance also plays an important role in preventing injuries. If you consider the fact that the ankle is the first major joint that absorbs shock when your foot hits the ground, you can see why having full ankle mobility is so important.
A weak ankle not only affects your balance, but also increases your risk of injury which can lead to chronic instability. Weak ankles can lead to sprains, strains, fractures, or dislocation.
The Ankle and Sports Performance
When you think of top athletes, you don’t immediately think of their ankles. Yet, ankle proprioception (the ability to sense movement, action, and location) and sports performance are definitely related.
In fact, a study that measured ankle proprioception of 100 elite athletes from five different sports—aerobic gymnastics, soccer, swimming, badminton, and sports dancing—and found that ankle proprioception scores were significantly predictive of sports performance level.
But even if you’re not an elite athlete, having strong ankles can help with everyday activities and lessens the chances of sprains, strains, and falls as you age.
How to Improve Balance and Strengthen Your Ankles
Improving balance control is an important goal. According to studies, better balance is associated with sports performance and negatively associated with lower limb sports injuries. Keeping your ankles strong helps with balance, reduces the risk of falls, and helps you keep doing the activities you love.
There are a number of exercises you can do to help strengthen your ankles and improve your balance. Here are a few popular ones:
- Single-leg balance: Using a chair or other object for added stability, simply balance on one leg. Hold for a few seconds, then switch legs. You can start with one or two fingers on the chair. As your stability improves, practice with your hands down by your side.
- Single-leg balance with movement: The same exercise as above, but instead of keeping your lifted leg still move your leg. You can lift it up behind you or bend at the knee and lift it to your waist.
- Heel and toe walking: Transfer your weight from your heels to the front pad of your foot as you walk. This helps to build stronger muscles throughout your foot and ankle.
Check Your Ankle Balance
Maragal Medical focuses on overall wellness and helping you keep your balance. That means assessing your ankle stability and helping you strengthen your ankles, if needed. If you’re curious if your ankles are helping or hindering your overall balance, sign up for one of our Free Fall Risk Assessments or call our office at 978-650-2710.