As one of the most used and most important joints in your body, your ankles play a critical role in your mobility and activity levels. Even a minor ankle sprain can sideline your fitness routine or make it difficult to keep up with your work or favorite hobbies.
Various factors, from overuse to a simple miscalculated step can result in the ankle twisting inward or outward, and may even cause shattered bones in the ankle. Sometimes, people mistake an ankle fracture for a sprain. This condition, however, can also occur simultaneously with an actual fracture because ankle fractures may also incur damages to the ligaments.
Ankle injuries may also be more common than you think. For example, an ankle fracture happens to one in every 800 people annually. It is more common among older people or Baby Boomers, however, young people aren’t exactly exempt, especially if they have active lifestyles. To guard against ankle injuries, don’t miss these essential exercises:
Key Exercises to Help Prevent Ankle Injuries
Begin with stretching exercises for flexibility and work towards strengthening the ankle and adjacent muscles which support it.
1. Stretching Exercises for Ankle Fracture
Towel Stretch. Sit down and stretch your legs to your front. Place a towel under your feet and hold the ends with each hand. Try pulling the towel towards you without bending your knees. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and repeat as needed.
Heel Cord Stretch. Face a wall and put your good leg forward with the knee slightly bent. Set the leg with an injured ankle behind and keep this straight. Keep a stable base of support with your feet on the floor as you press your hips close to the wall. Maintain this position for at least 30 seconds and repeat the process as needed. As a variation, you may also try bending the knee of the leg with the injured ankle.
2. Strengthening Exercises for Ankle Fracture
Resistance Band. Loop an elastic resistance band, on your injured feet while holding the sides with both hands. Bend your knees and then allow your feet to press forward on the band as you pull the ends towards you using your hands. Do at least 30 reps for this exercise. If your ankle is a bit healed and with clearance from your doctors, you can raise your leg while doing resistance exercises for more pressure.
Calf Raises. Stand on a platform or a step with your heels slightly to the edges. Use your toes or the ball of your feet to rise up and down slowly and feel your weight on our calves. Do this for at least 30 reps.
3. Balance and Control Exercises for Ankle Fracture
Ankle Alphabet. Sit on a chair and keep the feet with the uninjured ankle flat to the floor. Slowly lift the injured side and then use the heel to trace the letters of the alphabet. As an alternative, you can also try using your big toe as the pencil and draw alphabets in the air.
Chair Balance. Slightly lift your good leg while using a chair as balance. Put all of your weight by standing on your injured ankle for at least 30 seconds. As an extra challenge, try doing this exercise with your eyes closed.
4. Functional Exercises for Ankle Fracture
Calf Raises (Heel to Toe). Put your injured foot in front of your good foot and raise it on its tiptoes. Switch positions and put the back leg to the front and raise it on its tiptoes again. Try to walk in this manner and cover the distance of the room.
Hopping. This exercise has different levels of difficulty. To start, you may hop in one spot. Increase the height of your hop gradually to increase the level of difficulty. You can also try hoping to the side, backward, and forward. As you get better, you can try hopping on each leg alternately.
Tips to Prevent Further Injury to Your Ankle
If you have previously injured your ankle, factors like balance, flexibility, and strength are important to make sure that an ankle injury doesn’t happen again. Talk with your doctor about how much activity and which exercises could benefit your recovery, and consider wearing an ankle brace for added support and stability.
Nutrition also plays an important role in your ankle health. Calcium and vitamin D are important to ensure bone health. To hasten tissue repair, you need to up the amount of protein and vitamin C in your diet.
 Donken, CCMA, et al. “Surgical versus Conservative Treatment for Ankle Fractures in Adults.” PubMed Health, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 15 Aug. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
 “Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program.” American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, orthoinfo.aaos.org/
 “Exercising Your Ankle After a Sprain.” American Academy of Family Physicians, 15 Nov. 2006, www.aafp.org/afp/2006/1115/