STOP LEG CRAMPS, FALL LESS
Why would walking a lot be a problem? Frequent walks without stretching has the paradoxical effect of increasing the likelihood of having a fall. The ankle joints stiffen making responding to sudden challenges difficult. The muscles along the back of the legs tighten producing leg cramps as well as foot and/or lower back problems. Stretch the back of your legs at the end of your walks. Stretching along the way is a good idea too as is stretching before going to bed. Make certain to circle your ankles often.
Sitting and the legs: When you sit for extended periods, the muscles at the back of the legs shorten and tighten as well. Many times leg cramps and muscle spasms follow, frequently occurring while sleeping. If you routinely stretch the back of your legs, especially before you go to sleep, leg cramps will be significantly reduced if not completely eliminated.
Isn't it bizarre that the same problem we get when we walk too much also happens when we sit too much? BOTH RESULT IN STIFFNESS. On the other hand, walking is wonderful for building strength and vitality while extended sitting is quite detrimental to our health in a number of ways. Regardless, stretch, stretch, stretch. It is essential to strive for flexibility. Nothing makes us feel old more than stiff legs and to add insult to injury, leg stiffness makes us fall.
A student of mine experienced painful leg cramps every night that made her life miserable. During the day she was confined to a wheelchair and her knees were almost always bent. I showed her the seated calf stretch, which she proceeded to do every day. Her leg cramps disappeared! She was in her late 90s at the time.
Exercises that stop leg cramps:
- Ankle circles: Lift one foot up and circle your ankle. Hold onto your lower leg to keep your leg from moving. This is especially important if it is hard to do. Move only your foot. 8 repetitions in each direction for each foot. Ankle circles are particularly good to do in the morning as you are sitting on the edge of your bed.
- Calf stretch: Straighten your leg, flex your foot, push your heel away. Flex and point your foot 4 times. Stretch through your knee. Keep pulling your toes back toward you.
- Hamstring stretch: Sit at the front of your chair; extend one leg out straight with the heel on the floor, toes pulling back toward you. Tilt your straight spine forward, both hands on the leg that is bent. Be very careful not to be so far forward that fall.
- Stretch the back of your legs: Runner’s stretch: Place one foot behind the other, back heel on the floor. Bend your front knee so that it is directly over your ankle. Make sure the back foot is not turning out; the toes should be going straight forward. You will feel your back leg stretching. You can do this exercise anywhere. Lean against a tree or wall while you stretch; during your walk or at the mall. Recommended time to hold the stretch is 30 seconds for each leg. It is highly recommended that you do this stretch before getting into bed at night. If you have to get up in the middle of the night it is recommended that you do it again before getting back into bed.
- Hamstring stretch: Shift your weight to one foot and extend the other leg out, heel on the floor, toes pulling back toward you. Fold your torso over the extended leg with your spine straight. Place your hand on top of the thigh and press down as you fold over. You may feel more comfortable if you hold onto a piece of sturdy furniture with your free hand as you do this stretch.
A large variety of exercises are included in Building Better Balance that improve the flexibility of the legs and the hips. But the 2nd DVD of the Series, Legs & Feet, gives you a great course in improving leg fitness as well as learning to walk so that it is much easier.