Exercise can be beneficial to some people with bad ankles. Individual circumstances will determine whether exercising is right for you or if you need to rest until your ankles heal. The type of injury or pain you experience will also have an effect on the types of exercises you should try.
Maintaining Movement and Flexibility
You may notice your ankles are stiffer and lack a full range of movement following an ankle injury or problem. Try circling your ankles and pointing and flexing your toes to encourage flexibility in the area. This is a useful warm up exercise prior to doing other ankle exercises.
Performing heel raises on a step can help strengthen the ankle and regain flexibility in the area following an injury. Your toes will be in contact with the step and your heels will stick out over the back. When you are in position, slowly raise your heels so that you are coming onto your tip toes. Hold onto a rail if you are prone to wobble while completing this exercise. You may not be able to lift very far to begin with but your flexibility should improve with practice. When you are ready to advance this exercise, try holding dumbbells in each hand or using the calf raiser machine which requires the same ankle movement.
The ACSM recommend using wobble boards in the rehabilitation of ankle injuries. Wobble boards improve your coordination skills and stabilize your ankle joints. They also improve your strength and flexibility. A simple exercise to begin with requires you to stand on the board and maintain an upright position for 30 seconds while keeping the edges from touching the floor. Once you have mastered this technique you can move on to include controlled movements such as tapping the edges of the board to the floor in a specific pattern or squatting while maintaining your balance.
Rehabilitating the Ankle
As you recover from an ankle injury take care when re-introducing weight bearing exercise such as jogging and movements that involve changes of direction or the risk of jarring such as jumping or aerobics. Always stop exercising if you feel any pain or discomfort in the area and be aware that your body may need more time to rest or gain strength.
When to Avoid Exercising
If you have broken, injured or sprained your ankle avoid all exercise until it has recovered sufficiently. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, sprained ankles should be rested for at least 72 hours. Attempting to exercise at this time can slow your recovery. If you have a more serious ankle problem, follow the advice of your physician or physiotherapist regarding exercise.