Exercise – Thighs, legs and feet

Are you on your feet for hours a day? When your legs and feet feel tired have you noticed your whole body tends to feel tired, achy and you slow down? It’s as though your total wellbeing is dependent on the fitness of your limbs and if your legs ache and ankles swell you may also have a tendency to varicose veins. About half the UK population suffers from some kind of leg problems such as tired, aching legs and about a quarter seek treatment for such conditions as varicose veins or in extreme cases a venous leg ulcer.

Good circulation is important in preventing leg problems and strong legs are essential for mobility so it is important to exercise them regularly to maintain strength.  Women have naturally less leg power than men. Strong muscles provide stability and if we trip, strong muscles help correct our posture by supporting the bones and preventing fractures.  You will need your mat, pillow, exercise bands and upright chair for the following exercises.

Take care with these exercises if you have an existing back injury. You should feel no pain… but if in doubt leave it out!

To mobilise your ankles and feet

       happy feet

Stand and place hands on hips.  Straighten out right leg and place right foot out in front of you with heel down on floor.  Now bring your right foot back and touch your toes to side of left foot.  Repeat heel/toe action 10 times.  Change to left foot and repeat 10 times keeping supporting leg “soft” (slightly bent).

To increase circulation in the legs and maintain mobility of the ankles

       rock and roll

Stand holding chair back for support with feet flat on the floor. Keeping both heels on the floor simply pull your toes and forefoot up towards your shins. Now pointing your toes lower them back down to the floor, and at the same time with a rolling action lift both heels up.   Repeat rock and roll action as vigorously as you can 15 – 20 times. Feel the strong pumping action in the calf!

To increase circulation in legs and improve mobility of ankles

       circles

Stand as before. Lift your right foot off the ground and point your toes. Circle and rotate them (using ankle only not leg) first clockwise 15 times, then anti-clockwise 15 times.   Repeat with the left foot.

To strengthen the quadriceps (front thigh muscles)

 

       Front and side lift

 

Stand and hold back of chair for support. Straighten right leg, point toes and lift leg high out in front and hold for 5 seconds. Keep leg as high as possible and take it on out to side and hold for 5 seconds.   Relax leg down and repeat with the left leg.   Repeat 5 times with each leg. (Keep supporting leg soft)

To work the outer thigh muscle

       Abductors

Lie on your right side, bend your knees, stack them on top of each other, and curl them slightly forward (banana shape).   With right elbow on floor support your head with your hand (alternatively stretch out right arm palm up and rest your head on it with small cushion for comfort).   Place your left hand on the floor (in front of your waist) for support.   Don’t roll forward or backwards!   Now pull in your tummy, and tighten your bottom.    Flex your left foot (toes towards shin); keeping your knee bent lift up your left leg (lead with your heel and keep foot lower than your knee). Relax down. Controlling both the up and down movement lift and lower 10 times and feel the outside thigh muscle working. Roll over and repeat lifting and lowering with the right leg.

To increase the intensity of exercise to strengthen outer thigh muscle 

       Abductor 2

Lie as before. Flex toes but straighten your top left leg and lift up as high as possible leading with your heel.   Remember to keep your tum and bum tight throughout the exercise.   Begin with 10 lifts, then roll over to your left side and repeat the exercise with a straight right leg.

(You can add leg weights to increase the intensity still further)

       abductor to work the inner thigh muscle

Lay on your right side as before. With right elbow on floor support your head with your hand (or straight arm stretched out, palm up with, head resting on cushion). Place left hand in front of waist for support and take your left leg over your right knee, bend left knee and place down on the floor. Now straighten out your lower right leg (in straight line with your upper body) and flex your right foot.  Lead with your heel and lift and lower with short sharp movements 15 – 20 times.  Feel the small inner thigh muscles working!   Roll over to your left side, take your right knee over to the floor and repeat this “pulsing” movement with your left leg 15 – 20 times to tone up inner thigh muscles.

To strengthen abdominals and firm thigh muscles

       Double leg lift

Lie on your right side one hip stacked on top of the other as before with head resting on stretched out arm, palm up. Place left hand on floor for support in front of waist and slightly curve legs forward. Inhale, and as you breathe out lift both legs up off floor about 10cm, pressing them tight together. Hold for a count of 5 and repeat 5 times. Roll over to your left side and repeat 5 times.

To lengthen hamstring muscles (backs of thighs) and release tight lower back

       Hamstring stretch

Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on floor hip width apart.  Lift right leg and place your hands behind thigh to support it.  Breathe in, check posture to protect your back. (Ensure your waist is pushed down into the floor and pelvis tilted up).  As you breathe out pull in your tummy, straighten leg and lift it up as high as possible. Flex your foot and hold for 10 secs.  Carefully place foot down on floor and repeat with left leg.  (Use exercise band around foot if this is difficult for you)

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