With winter aches approaching or already here, being able to take the best care of your legs that is possible will help through long winter months. We forget, wearing slip on sandals in the summer, how much bending and twisting it takes to get boots on and off, how much ankles and knees can ache with the cold, and how far away your feet feel when putting on socks in the morning! We all need those healthy knees and legs to be able to tackle winter snow and ice patches. Regardless of your age, being able to continue to nurture healthy leg choices throughout your life will increase both your leg health and quality of life. Stable, healthy legs can help you continue to be active. Establish a good sense of balance to make sure you have less fall risk in cold areas.
Being active throughout your life is critical to healthy leg and body care, but finding the activity which works best for you can be critical. Are you a person who loves lifting weights, even on leg day? Or more an “indoor water aerobics while snow falls outside” sort? Any of the above is fine—just keep yourself in motion. Motion helps not only with blood circulation, but eases the stress on the lymphatic system, which can help with your immunities and overall pain. Find a gentle, kind motion for your body, focusing on your current capabilities, and extending those as time passes. Forget what exercises you didn’t like in the past: they don’t need to be for you. Focus upon what your body is capable of, now. Kind Movement can include all sorts of exercise, from ballroom dancing classes to hikes in the mountains. Find what is your happy movement.
Elevate Your Legs
At the end of a long day, it’s normal to have some swelling, and leg elevation can begin to alleviate that. Lying with your back to the floor and your legs on a wall can be great for both leg and back comfort, and for lymphatic drainage. If your calves, feet and ankles begin to swell more than usual, make sure to let your doctor know, however. Light compression socks and calf sleeves can be an extra layer of both comfort and warmth in the winter as well.
Erase Varicose Veins
Also normal in aging are varicose veins and spider veins. Though sometimes benign, having a doctor check out whether your veins are causing leg pain can be an important part of your health screenings. Many varicose vein treatments are minimally invasive. Diagnostics can be done in the office by ultrasound. Some procedures take only minutes without surgery! This can both lessen the pain level in your legs, and improve their general appearance.
Lots of things can help improve your circulation, but important steps like stopping smoking, watching alcohol consumption, and focusing on gaining muscle mass and strength can help your legs be stronger and walk longer. It seems silly to remember you need to lower your stress, during a pandemic, but stress can restrict circulation as well. Make sure you are getting regular cholesterol panels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol, for heart health. Ask your doctor about any supplements you intend to try to help circulatory efforts.
Focus on Strength, Not Weight
As you age, it’s important to focus upon exercises which will help keep your lower extremities as strong and nimble as possible. Especially in winter, when even young legs can begin to feel stiff and achy, keeping that momentum of movement and dexterity will help, especially when dealing with ice and snow. Using simple techniques and few tools, easy physical therapy techniques can also help you strengthen your leg health, without the need of costly gym equipment. Again, focus upon your own capabilities and pain levels.
Avoiding Sitting or Lying Down for Long Periods
In winter chill, lying down for days (or weeks) on end with a large cup of cocoa and a nice book sounds nice, but are not leg healthy goals. Try reading your book while walking on a treadmill or on a recumbent bike. Go talk with friends during water aerobics. Take long walks with your dog and a good podcast. But, for optimal leg health, don’t stay in one place, either sitting, or lying down. You’ve got to keep moving to be as healthy as possible.
It’s cold outside, but that doesn’t need to change our capabilities to move and enjoy this new season. Take it slow, watch out for ice, and get out there! Elevate after exercise, and keep hydrated. If jumping into a new exercise hobby is overwhelming, try starting slowly with some simple physical therapy movements. Loving movement helps you love your body, and helps your body continue to love you.
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