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8 Exercises to Get Rid of Cankles

author image Rachel Grice
Rachel Grice is a contributing fitness editor for and a certified yoga instructor. Previously, she was the science section editor and titling associate for several other sections of Demand Media Studios, including fitness, nutrition and technology. She completed her undergrad education at the University of Southern California and has worked for Men's Health, FitPregnancy and People magazines.
8 Exercises to Get Rid of Cankles
You can't spot reduce, but you can trim down all over. Photo Credit: m-gucci/iStock/GettyImages

Thick ankles are commonly referred to as cankles. They got their odd-sounding slang nickname because it looks like there's not differentiation between the calf and ankle. The term was then popularized in the 2001 movie "Shallow Hal," intended as an insult to body shame an overweight woman. Unfortunately, the term stuck.

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But what if you want to get rid of them to show off slimmer, shapelier ankles? First, it's important to know what causes them. Once you know that, there are dietary changes you can make and exercises you can do to reduce body fat and build definition all over — and specifically starting with your lower body.

What Causes Cankles?

There are four main reasons people develop cankles. First is genetic predisposition. Everyone gains and loses weight according to their genetics, and while you can eat healthy and exercise, you ultimately have no little over which areas drop the fat first. That said, embrace your body and DNA for all its pros and cons.

The second cause is related to the first and that's being overweight. If you're storing excess fat all over, chances are that some of that fat has also settled around your ankles. If that's the case, you'll need to work to lose weight in general (sorry, you can't spot reduce).

Another reason you may notice thicker ankles is fluid retention. If your diet is heavy in sodium, you body may be retaining water. Try cutting out processed foods high in sodium.

And the last reason is pregnancy. Especially later into pregnancy, women start to notice swelling of the ankles due to poor circulation. Generally, this is normal and will reverse itself after pregnancy. Don't expect an overnight difference, but returning to your pre-pregnancy activities (when cleared by a doctor) can help return your ankles to their previous size.

Tone and stretch your calves and ankles.
Tone and stretch your calves and ankles. Photo Credit: santypan/iStock/GettyImages

How to Slim Down Cankles

Even though you can't spot reduce for instantly slimmer ankles (sorry), there are things you can do to reduce body fat all over, which will eventually make its way to your ankles (depending on your genetics).

Weight and fat loss is, at its core, a relatively simple equation: Reduce caloric intake by eating nutrient-dense foods, incorporate more cardiovascular exercise into your routine and do some sort of strength-building exercises.

When it comes to your ankles, if you're looking for cardio and strength exercises to do in addition to a healthy diet, here are some of the best options:

1. Stair Calf Raise

HOW TO DO IT: Stand on the edge of a stair with your feet hip-width apart, holding onto the railing. Slowly raise your heel several inches from the top of the step so that you're on your tip toes. Hold this position for a second, and then slowly lower your heel back down past the edge of the step.

2. Single-Leg Calf Raise

HOW TO DO IT: Stand on the floor and balance on one leg. Put your hands on your hips for balance or brace yourself against a wall. Lift your heel off the floor a few inches, balancing on your tip toe. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

3. Single-Leg Pillow Balance

HOW TO DO IT: Stand on a throw pill while balancing on one leg. The instability will force the muscles and tendons in your ankle to help keep your body balanced. Hold for 30 seconds or as long as you can and switch legs.

4. Plie Squat With Heel Raise

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet wider than hip-distance apart. Squat down and at the bottom of the squat, lift your heels several inches off the floor. Hold for a second before lowering your heels, and then standing back up.

5. Narrow Squat With Heel Raise

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet a little narrower than shoulder-distance apart. Squat down and at the bottom of the squat, lift your heels several inches off the floor. Hold for a second before lowering your heels, and then standing back up.

6. Jumping Jacks

HOW TO DO IT: Start standing, and then jump your feet out to the side a few feet. Simultaneously, raise your arms above your head. Next, jump your feet together as you bring your arms back to your side.

7. Jumping Rope

HOW TO DO IT: Grab a jump rope (or just pretend) and skip rope for several minutes at a time.

8. Walking

HOW TO DO IT: It seems so simple, but the more you walk throughout the day, the more calories you burn. Plus, it's a low-impact way that also tones your lower body. For an added challenge, try walking uphill.

Read more: 12 Easy, Anytime Moves to Strengthen Your Feet and Ankles

What Do YOU Think?

Do you have cankles? Are you looking to slim down that area? What are you doing to stretch and strengthen your ankles? Did any of this advice help? Do you think you'll change your approach? Share your suggestions, thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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