By Associate Professor Caroline Robinson in the Charles Sturt School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sports Sciences.
‘Foot Health Week’ (11-17 October) is the perfect opportunity to focus on the role our feet play in our overall health, keeping us active and connected.
Following on from International Podiatry Day (8 October), these nationally recognised health awareness campaigns promote good foot health and the important role podiatrists play in keeping Australians pain-free and moving.
The theme this year is ‘Love your feet and… they’ll love you back!’.
With the huge impact of COVID-19 over the past 18 months - creating lockdowns, restricting activity, and causing social isolation - this is an ideal opportunity to consider the importance of physical activity and good foot health.
Being able to walk pain-free and participate in physical activity is something that we should not take for granted. Perhaps COVID-19 has helped us to realise how important exercise is to our physical and mental health.
Walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health.
Some of the benefits of walking include:
- reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- improved management of high blood pressure and diabetes
- stronger bones, increased muscle strength and improved balance
- weight management
But it’s not just physical health which benefits from regular activity.
Many studies now show that regular daily exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Physical activity can also boost energy, improve our mood, help reduce stress and increase satisfaction with life.
October is also Mental Health Month and the Black Dog Institute is inviting people to join them for ‘One Foot Forward: the walk for mental health’.
Good foot health is critical to being able to walk comfortably. Feet are complex structures which support our body weight - 26 bones in each foot and 29 joints with multiple ligaments and tendons, make for a lot of moving parts.
All the joints in the foot are designed to work in unison to enable us to walk and run efficiently. Damage to one small joint in the foot, for example with arthritis, makes the joint stiff and less able to move effectively.
Feet are also the body’s shock absorbers to reduce damage to our legs and spine. If one joint is stiff, this impacts the function of the entire foot and affects motion in the ankle, knee, hip, back and neck.
It’s interesting to consider that a stiff neck and persistent headaches might be due to arthritis in the big toe joint.
That’s why the Foot Health Week theme is ‘Love your feet and… they’ll love you back!’. Taking care of your feet will positively impact the rest of your body and your mind.
For more information, visit Foot Health Australia. This is a project of the Australian Podiatry Association, dedicated to educating Australians about the importance of foot health, raising awareness of foot health issues, and connecting Australians to podiatrists for lower limb care.