As the summer approaches, many Americans are hitting the gym (and the pavement) to burn off the winter pounds and get into bathing-suit shape. But even more Americans are looking for a way to combat what many experts have targeted as the greatest threat to our health in the 21st century: obesity. Obesity has been linked to many of the leading causes of death and disability in America, from cardiac disease to diabetes to cancer. The combination of unhealthy fast foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle has left both adults and children with, on average, 17 pounds of extra weight. Those extra pounds can have many adverse effects on the feet and ankles as well. The reasons are simple; the more weight you carry, the more stress you place on the load bearing surfaces of your body and the more problems you will incur. But foot and ankle problems shouldn’t keep you from reaching your ideal, healthy weight.
The consensus among experts is that the most effective route to weight loss stems from a combination of healthy diet and an appropriate exercise program. A common “excuse” for not taking up and exercise program, or sticking to it, is the pain and difficulty that can result. Many of these aches and pains are located in the lower extremity, the knees, hips, ankles, and feet. But this should not ultimately be a deterrent to a successful exercise program. There are many options for exercise that can remove some, or all of the load placed on the lower extremity, yet still provide an excellent cardiovascular workout. Biking, swimming, rowing, and the elliptical machine all remove much of the joint stress of running while providing a comparable workout. Easing into an exercise program is important to avoid injuries as well as to keep from becoming discouraged by physical and psychological setbacks. Stretching, both before and after exercise, as well as warming up slowly is important to avoid muscle strains. Wear appropriate shoes for the activity. I recommend a reputable sport or specialty athletic shoe store. The staff will understand your goals and your foot type to fit you better. Shoes can be pricey, but consider them an important part of your athletic “gear”, just as you would a tennis racquet or golf clubs. Also, be sure to see your general physician to ensure that your cardiovascular system is healthy enough to undergo the increased strain from exercise.
Losing weight will both improve your overall health and decrease your incidence of foot and ankle problems. Foot and ankle issues should not stop you from reaching your goals. If you develop foot or ankle issues during your new exercise program, be sure to come in and let us help you. You can find us at www.yourfootdoctor.com .
Have a happy and healthy Spring and Summer!