Although a lot of the time podiatrists are over looked in this area, podiatrists specialize in the lower limb including walking and running training. Podiatrist should be the go to profession for people recovering from an ankle injury, looking to walk more, deal with post-operative lower limb rehab, looking to increase balance and aid in fall prevention. Yes, a podiatrist ill aid in terms of footwear recommendations, possibly orthotics to improve gait and redistribute forces, but they will also give strength work.
When a person walks they have their own body weight going through one leg. In a grown male that around 80kg+ in a female 60kg+. To support this is requires a huge amount of strength. If the person can’t support this it will lead to changes in gait, injuries and pain. This is even more significant during running.
Here are 6 of my favorite exercises to give anyone getting back into exercise or elderly person looking to get stronger / experience less pain / reduce risk of falls and have a better quality of life. All of these exercises play a functional part of their lives and so translate perfectly to everyday activities.
Front Squat – the first exercise to be taught as its simpler than a back squat and can be performed at home. You can increase with weight with a backpack on your chest with water bottles or bags of rice.
Calf raises – hugely important for being able to walk efficiently, and prevent falls. You can increase with weight with a backpack on your back with water bottles or bags of rice.
Dead lift – if you can pick something up off of the floor you can do this exercises. Being taught how todo this safly is very important. Teaching this in revers is the best way to learn. Starting at the top and lowering a weight down, then back up again.
Hip abduction – Your hip and glute stability has a big influence of your balance and gait. There are many different exercises for this depending on the persons ability and strength. Simple clams are the easiest and band walking one of the hardest.
Step-ups – people go up and down steps all of the time. Many elderly people struggle with this and have a huge chance of falls. Once they are able to front squat a reasonable amount and have sufficient stability a very low step can be introduced.
Ladder walks – using a ladder on the floor creates and obstacle course for people. Hundreds of combinations can be used to help people improve speed, co-ordination, balance. Ladders are used for high performance athletes and can be used all the way down to fall prevention for elderly people.
So the next time you tell patient to go for a walk, maybe reassess and recommend strength work to reduce their risk of injury, chance of falls, and increase their quality of life.