Swollen legs and ankles affect safety and quality of life
Many older adults are affected by swollen legs and ankles. This can make moving around more difficult, increase fall risk, and make the lower body feel uncomfortable and heavy.
Legs, ankles, and feet swell when excess fluid is pulled down by gravity and builds up in the lower body. It’s called edema and is common in older adults.
Edema usually happens on both sides of the body. It can be caused by a variety of health conditions including heart failure, kidney disease, gout, and arthritis. It can also happen after surgery, when the body is healing.
We explain how certain exercises help and share a 7 minute video with 3 quick and easy exercises that reduce swelling in legs and ankles.
How exercise reduces swelling in legs and ankles
These simple exercises are basically working against gravity and helping the body pump fluids up from the feet and back into the trunk (center area) of the body.
Once the fluid is in the upper body, it can be processed by the kidneys and eliminated in urine.
Because these exercises help the body get rid of excess fluid, your older adult might need to pee more frequently.
Safety first: get the doctor’s approval
Before doing any of these exercises, it’s essential to check with your older adult’s doctor and get their approval.
Moving fluid out of the legs and into the center of the body to be processed could put extra stress on their system, especially for people with heart or kidney conditions.
For example, it wouldn’t be helpful to reduce swelling in the legs if that makes a heart condition worse. The goal is to safely improve overall health.
And as with any exercise, it’s always best to start slowly and increase over time to prevent injuries or discomfort.
3 simple home exercises for swollen legs and ankles
Bob, Brad, and Aaron are physical therapists who demonstrate and explain how to do 3 simple home exercises that relieve swelling in legs and ankles.
Exercise 1: Ankle pumps (1:28 in video)
Lie down and elevate feet. Moving only the feet, point toes up toward the head and then point toes down away from head.
Go back and forth and aim for 30 repetitions, 3 times a day.
It’s best to do this exercise while lying down, but it can also be done while seated. To make them a little more effective while seated, use a stool to elevate the feet.
Another senior-friendly alternative (2:48 in video) is to tap the toes like tapping along to a song. It might even be fun to play some toe-tapping music to make it more fun.
Exercise 2: Butt squeezes (3:17 min in video)
While sitting or lying down, tighten the glutes (butt muscles) – as if trying to pick up a quarter that’s between the butt cheeks 🙂
Go slowly and try to hold the squeeze for a few seconds, then release and relax for a few seconds before the next squeeze.
While doing this exercise, make sure your older adult doesn’t hold their breath. They should breathe slowly and deeply.
Aim for 10 of these squeezes, 3 times a day.
Exercise 3: Single knee to chest (5:09 min in video)
While lying down, bring one knee up to the chest and then return the leg to the flat position. Keep the other leg either flat or bent with the foot on the bed to take pressure off the back.
After finishing the exercises with one leg, switch to the alternate leg.
They don’t specifically mention how many repetitions to do. 10 repetitions per side, 3 times a day seems reasonable, but use your judgement to see what works best for your older adult.
Recommended for you:
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- The Best Way to Improve Senior Mobility: the Sit to Stand Exercise [Video]
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Mandurah Physiotherapy
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