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Heel Press can help people walk with confidence

Project Activate® - Support Independence and Resilience!


From Montana Office on Aging and Brilliant Aging

Weeks of sedentary days can threaten your independence. Join us for simple activities you can do at home to support independence a resilience.

Losing physical function was considered a normal part of aging, but now we know better. It's very common and predictable, but preventable! Build up your functional reserves of strength, mobility and endurance to protect your independence.

Daily activities such as lifting, carrying, dressing and getting out of a chair or tub require arm strength. If you feel fatigued after completing small tasks that once seemed easy, it's time to intervene. Improve strength by asking your muscles to do more than they've been doing on a regular basis.

Did you know even a small muscle group like ankle flexors can impact your ability to walk with confidence? Consider the key elements of a good walking pattern:

• good posture with eyes forward not down,

• a strong ankle flexion and heel strike directly forward - not opening to the side

• easily transferring weight from one foot to the other

• forward movement - you could walk along a wide board.

To assess fall risks, researchers examine stride-length (how far apart your feet are front to back), stride-width (how far apart your feet are side to side), the amount of time spent on two feet versus one foot, and posture/alignment.

If you can't strongly flex your ankle for a forward moving heel strike, you'll land more flat-footed which requires you to shorten stride length and open stride width. That creates more side to side movement which often leads to "shuffling" the feet and looking down rather than forward. This walking pattern increases your fall risk.

Practice your ankle flexion and weight transfer with the Heel Press exercise, and use a railing or wall for support as you practice walking with confidence. If you have balance concerns, please see a physical therapist to retrain your gait and regain walking confidence.

Always follow your physician's advice on exercise.

Heel Press: Stand in an upright posture with your left side to the chair and hand resting on the chairback. Keeping knees slightly bent, strongly flex the right ankle while pressing the right heel forward. Bring the foot back, stepping on it next to the left foot. Repeat with the opposite foot and continue alternating right and left heel presses forward 20x times's. Can be done seated.


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