Thick ankles can make your lower leg your least-favorite body part, especially when you hear them called "cankles," describing the merger of the calf and ankle. You should know, however, that the size of your ankle depends a lot on the way you're built. You can be fit, active and thin, and still have chubby ankles. All the exercise in the world isn't going to thin them down.
But, if obesity, fluid retention, vascular disease or too much time on your feet is the cause, you can reduce some of their size. Spot reduction isn't possible -- you can't whittle your ankles away by circling, flexing or wearing weights. You might be able to reduce swelling by losing a few pounds, changing some eating habits and, possibly, enlisting medical support.
Lose a Few Pounds
If your chubby ankles are accompanied by generous thighs and a pudgy belly, losing a few pounds may help slim them down. You can't target your ankles for weight loss, but you might lose any fat that's accumulating there as you lose weight all over. Getting to a healthy weight puts less pressure on your ankles when you stand and walk, so fluid is less likely to accumulate and cause swelling, too.
To lose weight, reduce portion sizes, choose whole foods and add at least 30 minutes -- or, even better, 60 minutes -- of moderate-intensity physical activity most days. The physical activity helps you burn calories, so you can create a caloric deficit and lose weight. It also helps improve circulation that discourages swelling in your ankles and legs.
Eat Less Sodium
Sodium is prevalent in processed and restaurant foods. Too much sodium encourages your body to hold onto fluids, much of which pools in your ankles. Even if you never reach for the salt shaker, you're still at risk of taking in too much sodium. The average American eats 3,400 milligrams daily, while the target should be 2,300 milligrams or less, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
To reduce your sodium intake, eat fewer packaged meals and snacks. Consider cooking more at home, where you can control the ingredients and thus, your sodium intake. Fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean proteins -- made without salty seasoning packets, bottled salad dressing and canned soup -- are the focus of this lower-sodium eating plan.
Support Your Veins
Your veins are designed to push blood back to the heart. Sometimes they falter and don't work like they're supposed to, which can result in swelling that shows up as fat ankles.
Consult your doctor if you suspect a vascular issue. Medical grade compression stockings, elevating your legs whenever possible and, sometimes, minor surgery help correct vascular issues.
- Medline Plus: Weight Control
- American Council on Sports Medicine: Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Contra Costa Health Services: Topics > Healthy Outlook > Lower Your Salt Intake to Bring Down Swelling Lower Your Salt Intake to Bring Down Swelling
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sodium and the Dietary Guidelines
- Cleveland Clinic: 6 Best Fixes for Pain and Swelling in Your Ankles