Find Your Place: Check Your Ankle Health

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

How well do your ankles move in various directions? This quick test can let you know.

Can you make circles with your feet clockwise and counterclockwise? How about figure 8s with your feet in both directions? In this video, SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack, along with physical therapist Mark Greenwood, explains how this quick test can give you clues about your ankle health as well as your brain-body connection.

You’ll need a sturdy chair. Try the test now, then see what your results mean below. If you have an ankle or foot injury, skip the test, but check out the tips below.

If Your Ankles Were Able to Move Easily with No Pain

That’s a sign your ankles are in good health. Often overlooked, the ankles, which connect your feet to the rest of your body, play a vital role in stability and movement. Going over a crack in the sidewalk? Healthy ankles help you avoid a fall. Need to switch directions during pickleball? Healthy ankles help you do that.

That’s also a sign your brain-body connection is strong. If you took the plate-tap challenge, you know that to move your ankle, the instructions from your brain (“move in a circle, move in a circle in the opposite direction”) need to get to your ankles, and your ankles need to be able to move in the way they were instructed. At the same time, feedback from your ankles (any resistance or pain) needs to get to your brain.

What’s great about these two tests for your ankles: They also work as fun exercises you can do anytime. Try five to 10 reps each:

  • Clockwise circle with right foot
  • Counterclockwise circle with right foot
  • Clockwise circle with left foot
  • Counterclockwise circle with left foot
  • Figure 8 with right foot
  • Figure 8 in opposite direction with right foot
  • Figure 8 with left foot
  • Figure 8 in opposite direction with left foot

What else helps your ankles and brain: a variety of workouts that require your body to move in different ways. Get inspired by browsing the workout programs on the SilverSneakers GO app (free, iOS and Android).

If You Noticed Resistance, Pain, or an Imbalance Between Ankles

That’s a sign you may have stiffness in one or both ankles, which can increase your risk of falls and limit your activity. Try the tips and exercises above to see if they help. If you noticed that one ankle doesn’t move as well as the other, you may want to start with or add a few extra reps for that side.

Still have pain or continue to notice that one ankle doesn’t move as well as the other? That’s a sign to talk to your doctor, who can help you figure out if there’s an underlying injury or issue. To make your conversation easier, jot dot your symptoms:

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  • Where you are experiencing the pain
  • When the pain started and how often it occurs
  • Any other symptoms you are experiencing, including any previous falls or fear of falling

If You Have an Ankle or Foot Injury

Working with your doctor or physical therapist can help you resume activity safely. Ask these questions:

  • Do I need additional medical treatment or physical therapy?
  • When can I start exercising on my own again?
  • What types of exercise are appropriate for me, and what types should I avoid?

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