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Taking it all in our stride: improving ankle mobility

My mum broke her ankle this time last year, it was her second ankle break in a few years but on the other leg this time, and it took months for her to get the strength back in that leg and be fully mobile. The fall this time was with me in Steventon – quite innocuous, involving a kerb and a patch of slippery ground.

The ankle broke badly and it had a devastating effect on Mum’s mobility and wellbeing. It made me realise just how easily our bones can break as we get older and how important it is to strengthen our joints to be more robust, whether on uneven pavements or around the house.

The ankle is a complicated joint where the tibia and fibula of the lower leg joins by tendons and muscles to the talus, at the top of the foot. The ankle is essential for walking as it can adjust to the surface we’re on, flexing sideways as well as forwards and backwards. Keeping us mobile means that ankles suffer a lot of wear and tear which can take its toll. Weakened ankles can affect our balance and increase the risk of a sprain or break.

Improving the mobility of our ankles enables us to move freely and safely. Mobility exercises are designed to increase the joint’s range of motion which strengthens it and prepares it for more challenging movement that might lead to a fall were it not strong and mobile. When we walk, we exert five times our body weight on our ankles and this increases to 13 times our body weight when we run. Even when standing, the ankle provides physical support for our body – it’s quite an exceptional joint!

When our ankles aren’t working flexibly, it can cause pain up the leg and into the knees and hips, so it’s important to do all we can to keep ankles strong and flexible. Unfortunately, an ankle injury can cause ongoing ankle weakness so we need to take extra care following a fracture, sprain or dislocation. 

The brilliant thing about ankle mobility exercises is that you can do them anywhere – standing at the sink or in the checkout queue.

The main exercises that strengthen ankles are heel lifts, toe and heel walks, toe raises, squats and lunges. To stretch out the ankle to keep it more flexible, try ankle circles (or draw the alphabet with your foot), toe stretches and pushing forward on one bent knee. I can talk you through all these in more detail if you like.

If you have an ankle problem and feel that they need to be strengthened to support your balance and mobility, our Gemma Pearce Fitness gentle Pilates or Zumba Gold classes, either online or face-to-face, are a brilliant way to look after your ankles (and all your joints!) Take a look at our fun, friendly classes at 


Find out more about our online exercise classes and face to face fitness classes in Didcot & Abingdon at

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