Quick Tricks for Foot Exercise When You’re Sitting Down

Are you sitting down for this?

You don’t have to be, but odds are pretty good you are. You might be reading this at your desk in the office, or on the sofa after a long day of work.

While there are certainly active jobs and ways to get moving in the off-hours, many of us still endure long stints of sitting down and a relatively sedentary mode of operation.

While modern lifestyles have been built around many duties that involve sitting down for long periods of time, our bodies were not really built for the same. And when it comes to our feet and ankles, the overall effects can be particularly harmful.

Being mindful of exercising your feet while sitting down, however, can make a positive impact in the long run. We have some tips on how to do that, but first let’s talk about why.

How Sitting Can Hurt Your Feet

A lifestyle that’s heavy on sitting can harm the feet in several ways. We will be discussing two of the bigger factors here.

First is a tendency to gain weight. We may have times of high calorie burn when we’re working out, but calories are still being burned throughout the day. Our bodies still have to expend energy to keep everything in us running.

This type of calorie burn is called “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” or NEAT, and it does not always run at the same level throughout the day.

When we are sitting or lying down, the energy spend our bodies require is much lower when we are walking or even just standing. The calories burned through NEAT are higher when we are not sitting or lying, no matter what we are doing.

The less running calorie burn we have, the more calories we retain. This can lead to weight gain, which adds excess force to our feet and ankles.

A second big factor is circulation—one we keep a close eye on with many of our patients. The feet and lower legs already have a harder time receiving blood, as they are the farthest parts away from our hearts.

Sitting for long periods causes our circulation to slow as our energy expenditure decreases. Additionally, holding yourself in a fixed, seated position requires certain muscles to tense, which restricts blood flow even further.

Blood can pool in the lower legs, causing varicose veins. It can also contribute to complications of diabetes, including nerve deterioration in the feet.

Sitting for long periods, day after day, just isn’t good for our feet. But we can do something to work against it.

How to Get in Some Foot Exercises While Sitting Down

Investing a little time to move during the workday and other long periods of sitting can not only be good for the feet and ankles, but can also lead to you feeling better in general throughout the day!

You also don’t have to incite a revolution to work some movement into your day (well, in most places, at least). You can sneak in some time right at your desk!

Here are some tips for ways to get moving and work out your feet:

  • Try to get up and move a few minutes every hour. Taking a few moments to stand, stretch, and move will help get the blood pumping again. It also helps reinvigorate you.
  • Work while standing, if possible. A standing desk, or an area you can work at for a bit while standing, can increase your NEAT.

Those two are big ones. But even when you’re sitting, you can engage in the following as you work:

  • Rock your feet. This is a great stretch to limber up and improve circulation in your feet. Start sitting, with feet flat on the floor. Shift weight to your toes, keeping them against the floor, and raise your heels. Hold for three seconds, then return, shifting to keep your heels on the floor and raising your toes upward. Hold this for another three seconds, and repeat the process 10 times.
  • Roll your feet. If you can get your shoes off, you can engage in a massage. Roll one foot at a time against a foam roller, tennis ball, or bottle. For some additional ice therapy, fill a bottle most of the way with water, freeze it, and use that to roll against your feet.
  • Work your ankles. Improve your ankle mobility with circles or “toe writing.” Circles are just as you would imagine: rotating your ankles in slow circles, 30 seconds in one direction and 30 seconds in the other. For toe writing, lift your leg slightly so your foot is off the floor. Pretend your big toe is a pen and write the alphabet out one letter at a time.
  • Tap your toes. This one is simple, and you likely do it at times already. However, you can train yourself up to tap more productively! Aim for one minute of continuous tapping at first (doing one foot at a time or both at once). As you continue day by day, work on increasing time, switching up your speed, and increasing your range of motion. Doing this with variety will keep your muscles guessing and be more effective.

Take Charge When You Take a Seat

Whatever your job and however you spend your time, keep the health of your feet and ankles in mind as much as you can. Just a few simple routine changes and exercises throughout the day can make a big difference to your comfort and mobility in the future.

Another healthy attitude to have is addressing foot and ankle issues as soon as they arise. Staying inactive when consistent heel pain or other problems are causing you trouble increases your risks of those problems growing worse—or even becoming chronic.

Whenever you or a loved one has trouble, give us a call at (480) 917-2300 to schedule an appointment at any of our offices in the greater Phoenix area. We’re here to help you get through the workday—and every day ahead.

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