How the secret to a longer life is at your feet

We worry about our waistlines, get our eyes tested and construct dreaded dentist appointments. But what about your feet? Chances are you donat spare them much thought.

But, increasingly, research indicates we should be paying them more attention a with experts pointing out that our feet really are the foundation of our health. Maintaining them in tip-top shape, they argue, could improve posture, avoid injuries and ward off aches and pains.

Perhaps most important, looking after our feet could prevent life-threatening falls.

One in three adults over 65 will have at least one autumn a year a and they are the most common cause of injury-related deaths in people over 75, according to the. This is because they can lead to fatal hip fractures and head injuries.

aThe feet are a neglected part of the body, a says Dr Ralph Rogers, a consultant in sports and orthopaedic medication at The London Sports Injury Clinic. aNobody thinks about them until something goes wrong.

aBut with only a little bit of regular upkeep and consideration, millions of people could be saved from future problems, a he tells. Here, we bring you the expert guide to developing your feet a just as youad develop any other muscle in your body a and explain why itas so vital.

WHY YOUR FEET NEED A WORKOUT

aGreat posture starts with your feet, a explains Dr Rogers. aThe foundation of a building offer a base of stability that supports the entire structure, therefore a weak foundation leads to collapse. The same happens with your feet.a

Each foot should function almost as a tripod, with the big toe, the little toe and the heel forming the three points that hold the ankles, knees and hips in perfect alignment above the foot when it is flat on the floor with the outside edge of the foot in contact with the ground.( The inside edge will not usually be flat on the floor because of the natural arch .)

But, as Dr Rogers points out, when that tripod is not perfectly balanced a because the footas arch is naturally too high or too low a or through ill-fitting footwear, injury or muscular weakness a it affects the ankles, knees, hips, back and shoulders.

aIt creates dysfunctional movement and can lead to hip, back, and neck ache and can even be the cause of headaches, a he says. aFor instance, if youave hurt your big toe, youall change the route you walk. This can mean the calf muscles take extra pressure, who are capable of have a knock-on effect on the ligaments that join your knees to your hips, causing ache in these joints.

aSimilarly, changes to the style your hips are moving will affect your back, and the back muscles which connect to the muscles around your head. If they are tight, that can cause headaches.a

YOUR FEET HAVE aCOREa MUSCLES, TOO

A 2009 survey published in the Journal of Clinical Biomechanics which measured peopleas foot strength find the weaker certain foot muscles were, the more likely they were to have a fall.

Physiotherapists and fitness experts often talking here our acorea muscles, meaning the muscles in the pelvis and abdomen that keep you upright and help protect your back from injury.

However, the foot has acorea muscles too. And they perform a similar function.

The term afoot corea merely came into medical parlance recently, thanks in part to a 2015 paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in which a group of U.S. academics argued that the core muscles of the foot a the muscles in the sole of the foot where both aims are joined to bones within the foot a are alargely ignored by cliniciansa.

Treatments, “theyre saying”, for complaints such as plantar fasciitis( inflammation of the ligament that runs along the sole of the foot, which causes heel pain) and other foot traumata are amore often directed at externally supporting the foot rather than developing these musclesa.

However, they believe aa stronger foot is a healthier foota and indicate strengthening these muscles could help improve ankle stability and balance and potentially even reduce injury.

SO JUST HOW FIT ARE YOUR FEET?

Like any muscles, your foot muscles require exercising.

This becomes even more important as we age because we naturally lose muscle strength and muscle mass.

This muscle loss can start as young as 30 but tends to accelerate after 50 and, while lean muscle mass generally contributes up to about 50 per cent of your body weight as a young adult, itas closer to 25 per cent by the time you get to 75 to 80.

This entails the muscles in our feet also weaken with age, so ensuring that they are in fighting form is essential if weare to prevent falls( and other problems ).

But foot acorea strength is just one aspect of foot afitnessa.

Although good foot core strength ensures the bones of your feet are held in the correct place and your body is aligned properly, foot health is also about making sure that supporting structures, such as the ligaments, are functioning as they should, that you have the correct amount of flexion and mobility in your ankle to make sure your foot is functioning normally.

Then there is proprioception. This is your awareness of where the different parts of your body are in time and space, even when you canat watch them. Good proprioception in your feet improves balance, and reduces the chance of falls.

Your brain receives messages from special sensors called proprioceptors in every one of your muscles and tendons, these communicate information about what your body is in linked with and how balanced you are, but they need develop. Fortunately, there are simple exerts you can do at home to improve all of these elements( see below ).

WHAT ABOUT FLAT FEET?

The foot arch is generally maintained by the muscles of your footas core. Flat feet or fallen arches mean the instep that is usually created when your foot is on a flat surface remains in contact with the ground.

As the instep normally provides the correct spacing between two points of the atripoda, this can entail the foot is unstable and the knees roll inwards.

In young children, you usually canat consider an archway due to apuppy fata, but by the age of around six, the archway should have developed. However, around one in 20 people will never develop an archway a and this may simply be genetic.

In many cases this wonat cause a number of problems, but if it does a typically pain in the knees or hips a orthotics or insoles which create an artificial arch can be worn in shoes to correct their own problems, although this is unlikely to force-out the arch to form so most people who need orthotics will have to wear them for life.

You can also alosea your arches as an adult a and itas not aone of those thingsa that happens with age. You can, and should, protect against it, as losing your arch can put you at greater hazard of a fall.

TRENDY GYM CLASS MAY BE BAD FOR FEET

High-Intensity interval training( HIIT) a short, sharp bursts of intensive exercise that they are able involve sprinting or impact exerts such as squatting jumps a is now very popular.

However, Dr Ralph Rogers, a consultant in sports and orthopaedic medicine at The London Sports Injury Clinic, says he has noticed a rise in patients with plantar fasciitis( inflammation of the ligament that runs from the heel along the sole of the foot) and is persuaded the workout tendency is partly to blame.

aHIIT is not for everyone, a he says. aIf youare new to exert, you need to build up slowly.

aGradually increase the loading by around 10 per cent each time, which will avoid abruptly putting excessive pressure on your joints and soft tissues, including the soft tissues in the feet.a

aOne of the more common causes of adult-acquired flat feet is posterior tibial tendon dysfunction( PTTD ), a explains Rebeca Gomez, a podiatrist and clinical podiatry leading at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. aThis is where one of the ligaments on the inside of the ankle that helps is in favour of arch loses function.a

This can lead to instability, deformity of the foot and degenerative changes in the surrounding joints in the form of osteoarthritis.

PTTD can be the result of overuse, or a sprained ankle which didnat mend properly, but risk factors also include diabetes( as high blood sugar levels can injury tendons) hypertension( which reduces blood flow to the ligaments that keep the arch in place) and obesity( as the load the feet are supporting is increased ).

To protect your arch, Patrick McKeon, an associate professor in exert and athletics science at New Yorkas Ithaca College and co-author of the 2015 afoot corea newspaper, recommends a simple workout to contract the muscles that pull the archway of the foot upwards.

Sit down with your foot flat on the floor and attempt to shorten your foot by lifting the archway, without scrunching up your toes or moving your leg.

Itas a very small motion a like pelvic floor exerts but for your foot a if youare doing it right if you can see your arch lift and your foot get slightly shorter. Aim to do this 20 times in a row, two or three times a day, before progressing to the same workout standing up.

To see a detailed demonstration, go to youtube.com and search adeveloping the strength of the foot corea.

WHY HAIRY TOES ARE A GOOD SIGN

Rebeca Gomez indicates doing a quick assessment of your own foot health.

aIs the scalp dry? Are there any calluses or corns that may indicate any areas of excess pressure or abnormal foot mechanics? a she asks. aIs the skin intact? How about in between the toes? Hard skin build-up on the toes and soles are a warns that the footas mechanics are not quite correct. Footwear may be a component, but either way it warrants professional assessment.a

aHard skin on the tips-off of the toes or calluses on the sole at the base of the toes can suggest youare shoes are too big as it indicates your toes are clawing to keep your shoes in place, a she says.

aSimilarly, hard skin on the heels can indicate your calves are very tight, maybe as the result of wearing high heels.a

Other, more quirky factors can be good indicators of foot health. aDo you have hairy toes? This is good as it suggests the circulation is good, as to grow hair on your toes you need a big supplying of oxygen and nutrients.a

Check your circulation by pinching the fleshy bit of your big toe until it goes white. When you let go, day how long it takes to go pink again.

Youare basically temporarily cutting off blood flowing and day how long it takes for blood to flow back. aIt should take less than five seconds, a tells Rebeca Gomez .

Poor circulation could be an early warning of diabetes, blood pressure issues or blocked arteries so booking in to ensure a podiatrist, who may refer you to your GP, is a good notion. This is even more important past the age of 50.

The feet can act as an early warning system, so Rebeca Gomez recommends a yearly check-up, or more frequently if issues are identified.

This is likely to be a private consultation as unless you have a diagnosed foot condition, you are unlikely to see a podiatrist( the modern name for a chiropodist) on the NHS.

The College of Podiatry can help you. Run to scpod.org/ find-a-podiatrist/ or call.

THE ULTIMATE FOOT WORKOUT

PODIATRIST Rebeca gomez indicates trying these exercisings on a daily basis to improve your all-round foot health…

Exercise 1: Stand behind the sofa and place a tennis ball between your ankle bones. Rest your hands on the back of the sofa and rise up onto your tiptoes rapidly without dropping the tennis ball.

With the ball between your ankles, return heels gently to the ground. This runs an important ligament on the inside of the ankle which helps preserve the archway of the foot. It also strengthens the calves and ankle stability, reducing the risk of sprains and falls.

If you canat do this without ache or dropping the ball, this is an indicator that your tendon is weak and your archways may be at risk of falling.

Start with five repeatings per day and work up until you can easily carry out 20 a day.

Exercise 2: Try balancing on one leg( near a wall for safety ). This forces special sensors in the muscles and ligaments of your feet which send signals to your brain a known as proprioceptors a to work harder as your body calculates where your extremities are and how to balance.

Try it for a slow count of 30 without wobbling, then on the other leg. Now try it with your eyes shut a this will test what your feet can feel even further. Recur the exercises two to four times a day. The aim is to stand on each leg with eyes closed for at least 30 seconds, without wobbling or needing to touch the wall for support.

Exercise 3: Place a thick book on the floor. Put the front of your feet on the edge of it, keeping your heels on the ground and tilt your feet slightly outwards towards the little toe.

Tuck your bottom in. You should still be able to stand up straight, and feel a stretching through your calf.

Aim to hold this stretch for two minutes twice a day. This helps ensure your calf can stretch enough so when youare walking, your heel can strike the ground first and propel you forward.

It also ensures the leg can be brought forward directly underneath the body rather than swinging it around the outside of the body.

The body often takes these alazya shortcuts, but it can cause knee and hip problems.

Source: Daily Mail

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