Family Friendly Exercises for Healthy Feet
You might not think your kids listen to you as often as they should. But when it comes to you being an example for them, you might be rubbing off on them more than you think.
Children frequently learn by watching and imitating their parents. In fact, psychology research has suggested that children often over-imitate their parents. They may perform extra little quirks or rituals their parents do when completing tasks, even if those added motions have absolutely no impact on the job itself!
(Humans appear to be the only creatures who do this, by the way. We’re special!)
What this indicates is, if you want your children to integrate something that helps them into their lives, you shouldn’t just be telling them to do it—they should be seeing you doing it as well!
Placing some attention toward foot and ankle care is something that can benefit your whole family, and you can jumpstart it by making some quick and easy foot exercises a part of your crew’s routines.
If your child is into physical activities and sports, it can help them avoid injuries. And if there is a history of foot pain in your family due to abnormal arches or other inherited conditions, stretching and strengthening now can mean fewer potential pains and problems in the future.
We have a few examples of fun, quick exercises you can perform with your kids to help build that focus on good foot health. We recommend setting steady times to practice them, such as in the morning or before doing anything that might involve a lot of running or moving. The latter will help reinforce the need to properly warm up before activities, which is a habit we wish more people had!
The following repetitions have a bit more of a “playful” atmosphere to them than many other exercises, making them a good starting point for children. Moving on from here, more direct stretches and exercises could be added, and we would be happy to help you determine which are best for you and your family.
This is a great exercise to roll out for younger kids who are still learning their letters, but don’t underestimate how helpful it is for your ankle stability!
Sit in a chair or on the floor with your leg lifted straight out in front of you. Now, simply pretend your big toe is a pen and write out the letters of the alphabet twice.
You can try upper case or lower case, and mix it up whenever you wish. Either set will give you a great workout and put you through a great range of motion.
These activities work your plantar flexors, which are the muscles at the top of your foot and toes.
The first is a simple marble pickup game. Sit with feet flat on the ground and place 20 marbles in front. Do not set them so far out that you must strain your leg to reach them. That’s not what this exercise is about.
Using one foot, pick up each marble one at a time and drop it into a bowl beside you. If you don’t have a full set of 20 marbles, work with as many as you have and place them back on the floor when you’re out. We’re aiming for 20 repetitions. Once you’ve finished 20 with one foot, switch to the other!
If you don’t have marbles or want to try something different, a small towel will also work. Sit just like you would with the marble game, with the towel on the floor in front of you. Grab the center of the towel with your toes and curl it inward, as if “scrunching” up the towel beneath your foot. Relax and repeat five times with each foot.
If you want to make the towel exercise a bit more challenging, you can add some weight to the edge of the towel.
Golf Ball Rolling
For this exercise, naturally, you will need a golf ball. If you’re lucky enough to live near a golf course, you might find an errant one now or then when you take a walk.
Once again, sit in a chair with both feet firmly on the floor. Roll the golf ball beneath the arch of each foot for 2 minutes.
This stretch works the plantar fascia that runs beneath each foot. It’s a very important part of the arch and the source of a lot of heel pain in adults, so taking good care of it now is helpful! For some added feeling, try keeping the golf balls in the freezer before you use them.
This one only needs a towel (perhaps the same towel from above!), but an exercise band also works if you have one.
Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you. Loop the towel (folded lengthwise) or the band around the ball of one foot and, with an end of the towel or strap in each hand, gently pull the towel back toward you.
This will bend the top of the foot back (but don’t do it so much that it hurts!). Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat 3 times before switching to the other foot. This exercise should be felt in the calf and heel.
All in the Family
The more your children see you making good choices, the more likely they will make good choices for themselves. Not only that, but you’re benefiting yourself in the process. It’s a win-win!
If there is a history of foot or ankle pain in the family, or there are special conditions you would like to address, then Kansas Foot Center is here for you. Call us at (866) 222-5177 or fill out our online contact form to reach out with questions or to schedule an appointment.