Ankle fractures are so common, that it seems many of us know someone who’s experienced one – including myself! Just last summer, my sister-in-law broke her ankle due to a fall while on vacation.
The apparent frequency of such fractures can make it seem like the ankle is inherently unstable, but barring major impact such as a car accident, it’s more a matter of failure to strengthen these very articulated joints.
This will be further explained in this weekend’s challenge, and we’ll also explore new research that reveals behaviors that can lead to ankle fractures, and how they affect seniors in particular. And of course, I’ll show you how you can strengthen your ankle joints and avoid fracture.
So read on to learn about this remarkable joint known as the ankle, and about a simple yet effective exercise to prevent an ankle fracture.
Many people think their ankles are just weak, as if there’s nothing they can do about it. But the good news is that with targeted exercise we can (and should) develop strong ankles.
But before we get to the topic of strengthening, we’ll take a look at the seriousness of ankle fractures and the circumstances leading up to them, so you can avoid such scenarios on your own bone health journey.
The New Hip Fracture?
When it comes to life-altering fractures, most people are inclined to point the finger at the hip. While it’s true that a broken hip can be devastating, it’s come to the attention of researchers that ankle fractures can be similarly disastrous.
A group of ankle fracture patients over the age of 60 were studied by U.S. researchers. When more than 25% of them passed away less than three months after sustaining the fracture, investigation ensued, revealing two notable risk factors for deadly ankle fractures: multiple health conditions (comorbidities) such as diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure, and other conditions prior to the fracture, and lack of weight-bearing exercise following injury.1,2
According to Christy King, DPM, an attending foot and ankle surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in California, an ankle fracture results in loss of mobility and conditioning that contribute as much to the risk of death as the comorbidities present before the fracture occurred. Preventing ankle fracture patients from engaging in weight-bearing exercise makes it more difficult to achieve effective reconditioning as well.1
In sum, poor health in general increases the risk of complications should you sustain an ankle fracture, and not exercising during recovery raises that risk even more.
It’s worth noting that the existing comorbidities in the study participants would have had the additional effect of preventing vigorous exercise, thus raising their risk of sustaining a fracture to begin with.
This brings us back to the importance of exercise as a key component in strengthening bone and avoiding painful ankle fractures. Not only does regular exercise greatly reduce the possibility of developing one of these comorbidities, but it also strengthens the ankle bones themselves, as per Wolff’s Law.
Additionally, exercises like the Ankle Fracture And Fall Preventer enhance your balance, providing further protection from falling.
And finally, preferably under the guidance of a physical therapist, exercise following injury is paramount in making a full recovery. Bone simply cannot rejuvenate, heal, and strengthen without being used as it was intended.
The ankle joint is not inherently weak and unstable. Its remarkable design allows for flexibility, mobility, and strength, and this weekend’s challenge is an excellent first step in working toward stronger, more stable ankles.
This move is best done barefoot, but you can wear shoes as you get the hang of it. Also, since you’ll be balancing on one foot, you’ll want to be near a wall, chair, or similar object to catch yourself if need be.
- Stand with one foot slightly ahead of the other. For clarity’s sake, we’ll start with the left foot ahead.
- Bring the right foot forward and up, bending your right knee, while simultaneously bringing your left arm up, elbow bent. Your right arm will also be bent at the elbow, but back behind you. Think of pumping your arms as if you’re running.
- As you bring your right leg up, stand on tiptoe with your left foot. Hold this position – arms bent in a “pumped” stance, right leg up, left foot up on tiptoe – for five seconds (if you are able).
- Slowly bring your feet back to the starting position.
- Repeat this five-second tiptoe hold with accompanying arm movements 12 times, or as many or few as you feel comfortable doing.
- Switch legs and repeat another 12 times on the other side. Aim for three sets of 12 on each side for a total of six sets.
If you’d like more exercises to round out your ankle-strengthening routine, here are three Weekend Challenges that go well with the Ankle Fracture And Fall Preventer:
You’re Well On Your Way To Fracture-Proof Ankles
Today’s challenge focuses on the ankles, but also emphasizes the importance of exercise for overall health. With the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, you’ll find even more targeted exercises designed to increase bone density, but that also provide the whole-body benefits of regular exercise.
If you’re already “Densercising,” feel free to add the Weekend Challenges to your routine. While Densercise™ is designed to be practiced three days a week for 15 minutes a day, if your fitness level allows, you can certainly perform additional bone-strengthening exercises on the other four days of the week. Or you may like to swap out some of the Densercises with the Weekend Challenges. It’s up to you!
Here’s to strong ankles and a happier, healthier you!
Have a great weekend,
1 Toole, W.P., et al. “Are low-energy open ankle fractures in the elderly the new geriatric hip fracture?” J Foot Ankle Res. (2014).
2 Lynde, M.J., et al. “Complications after open reduction and internal fixation of ankle fractures in the elderly.” Foot Ankle Surg. 18. 2. (2012): 103-107.
Comments on this article are closed.
Vivian – I am a member and I can’t thank-you enough for all the excellent info you send to all members. At my last dexa-scan I was told to keep doing what I was doing & now I’m looking forward very soon to having another thanks to your program.
I’ve made good use of your book the Bone Health Revolution and always used your Chapter 8 guide to Alkalizing & Acidifying foods. I had the individual lists to work from & when they were torn from use I conveniently re-printed them from my computer. However we had computer problems and they were deleted. Is it possible for you to send me those lists? I certainly would be most appreciative. Thanking you in advance for your consideration of this request. Carol
LOVE your informative articles and exercise advice!
I climb 7 flights of stairs every day before I do my 1/2 hour walk as part of my exercise routine. Would stair climbing be a good ankle strengthener too?
I was actually wondering the same about climbing stairs as I live in London and climb the escalators rather than stand on them when travelling by tube a few times a week. I do notice that I feel better for it but also wondered whether it strengthened my ankles. What do you think Vivian? Also, anyone have any advice on what footwear to wear if weak ankles are a problem?
I can attest to how debilitating an ankle fracture can be, after sustaining an osteoporosis-caused hairline fracture of the talar bone which sits just below the ankle joint. It turned my life upside down, being unable to bear weight for almost a year, on crutches almost 8 mos. and wearing a heavy cumbersome boot. After this disaster I agreed to try Forteo injections as my bones are very, very bad and four Drs. recommended I do something other than “natural” means. If exercise can help, I strongly advise anyone to do it. You don’t want a foot fracture it is life-changing. I still cannot walk normally or for as long as I want to, 18 mos later.
Love your website…after a low bone density exray, it was suggested I take medicines to help rebuild bone density…even shots…what I read about many meds is not helpful…I am sticking to a diet high in calcium and exercise. Thanks for your help. sf
Thank you , Ita.
I absolutely love the weekend challenges Vivian. They keep me focused and confident about my decision not to take the medication. Thank you so much.
Just wondering I have not received a posting since then end of July not sure if it is my end or yours. Last one was the weekend challenge for ankle fracture.