A major misconception regarding occupational therapy is that we only work with the upper body. There are occupational therapy practitioners that specialize in hand therapy because our hands help us eat, balance a check book, drive – communicate. Our legs equally help us to sit, stand, push on a gas pedal or to maneuver around objects to get to something or to someone.
We don’t specialize in leg therapy, yet we do specialize in the purpose and performance of everyday and meaningful activities. Below are nine leg positions meaningful to health for the achievement of successful life-long occupations:
Sitting habits may be with a leg crossed over the other, one leg’s foot tucked under the opposite buttock, or both feet between our buttocks and our seat. With repetition over an extended period of time these positions will cause joint hypermobility, weakening the hip, knee and ankle ligaments.
Hip or knee replacements commonly begin with weakness in the joint.
- Sit with feet flat on the floor.
- Change positions every thirty to forty-five minutes.
- Raise the legs (like a recliner), or bring both feet to the right or left of center. Similar to how royalty sits.
Recently there has been a big push towards standing desks. Regardless if you stand or sit for work, it’s important to change your position every thirty minutes.
First, standing requires more energy then sitting. It’s proven to increase the level of fatigue by 20%. Prolonged standing is proven to increases onset of varicose veins. Plus research points it to one factor with the onset (in men) of carotid arteriosclerosis. Standing strains the circulatory system.
- Change standing posture a maximum of every twenty minutes.
- Change foot position by weight-shifting to the right and left.
- Keep the knees slightly bent to activate those muscles above the knee.
Gait style will change as joints and muscles age. Pay attention to your walking pattern.
- Which way do your toes point while walking?
- How long (or short) is your stride?
- When do your feet stay close together?
These questions raise awareness that will maintain plus improve balance.
A common metaphor I use with people is that our feet are like the foundation to a building. If a natural disaster hit, a firm, grounded foundation most likely will withstand the force of nature. This is equal to a body in motion.
Aging with a safe gait pattern paired with strong legs will keep walkers, canes and injuries at bay. Most importantly it will avoid the number one cause of injury of the aging: falling.