Ankle Exercise for Healthy Aging – and Why to Thank Your Ankles

April 1, 2017  by Dr. Suki Munsell

When we stop to appreciate a body part, we often think of the heart, brain, or the lungs. But where would we be without our ankles? Just where we’re seated right now! Yet, our ankles play a vital role in active aging.

Coincidentally, several days before a skin melanoma was diagnosed near my right ankle, I wrote this thank you note. The subsequent surgery and recovery demanded being off my feet for a few weeks. Even worse was the fear I’d have to cancel a vacation to Harry Potter World with my 11-year-old granddaughter – who is quickly heading into her busy teenage years.  I healed sufficiently to take the trip, but the experience heightened my appreciation for my ankles helping me stay vital.

Dear Ankles, our whole life, you’ve been doing a great job. Remember ice skating as a kid – tricky, slippery, and cold; so glad we figured it out fast. When I was teaching roller skating – you navigated the spins and never embarrassed me. Snowboarding – ouch – but that was not your fault; the boots kept you bound too tight. That time we were water skiing when I caught that wave wrong and we skipped like a stone – not your fault. All those years sailing, we never fell once, even when the waves tried to wash us overboard

You’re flexible, ankles, negotiating bumpy patches and guiding us safely over slippery slopes, even hiking at night. We’ve survived some falls this lifetime, and we’ve grown smarter.

Our legs and butt love you, too. You keep them looking trim and sharp. You work well together. You guys have a crazy job really, either holding our body stable as a ladder, or being active as a pony. You do a good job balancing the hundred plus pounds above you      

The older I get, the more I need you. You keep me rolling through life, pumping fluids up my legs so they don’t get swollen, flushing my system each of those 8,000 steps we take each day. I see seniors walking flat footed, waddling side to side, needing a cane; a cautionary tale. I’d hate that.    

I pay better attention so you can support my knees and hips joints. If we fall and something breaks, I could lose my ability to walk. All our systems will begin to wind down. That could forecast a six-month trip to the grave.

I want Lifelong Legs. Life in a wheel chair, people having to care for me, losing my independence, not a pretty picture. Jacqueline Kennedy was walking in Central Park the day before she died. That’s an image to shoot for.

Let’s keep making beautiful memories together, ankles, on our 250,000-mile lifetime trip around the globe. A fitting close to our healthy, long term relationship. You’ve always been there for me.

Thanks, I love you.


Keep your Ankles Flexible and Healthy with this exercise.

  1. Stand on your right foot and place the left toe on the ground. Use support to stay safe and balanced if needed.
  2. Keeping your left toe pointing to the ground, rotate the left ankle by circling your foot 8-10 times. Make the circle full as if touching each minute on a clock.
  3. Repeat on the other side.
  4. Practice 3x a week to keep your stride young and flexible.
  5. Remember to roll thought each foot from heel to toe.

Join our classes to keep all of your joints healthy and grow Lifelong Legs.

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Suki Munsell, Ph.D., somatic therapist, educator, and Dynamic Walking coach