Pedaling with your arms to improve your legs

December 17, 2018

Did you know working out your arms could help with your legs too? It doesn’t seem to make sense at all, right? But it looks like researchers have discovered it could be true. How on earth does this even happen? Japanese researchers came across a study done ten years ago that discussed how arm cycling could help with calf spasms. The study found that pedaling exercises for your arms decreased calf spasms in both healthy people and stroke survivors because it activated areas in the brain. That’s how they came up with the idea that arm exercises could help with ankle stiffness and mobility.

Exercising with your arms helps your legs

It sounds strange, but the results looked promising. That’s why the researchers decided to test their theory. They wanted to find out whether arm pedaling combined with stretching could help improve ankle movements after a stroke. They recruited nine patients for a small study where participants would stretch for 10 minutes before doing arm pedaling exercises combined with stretching. Some of the patients would reverse this order, performing the arm pedaling before the 10 minutes of stretching.

Looks like we’re on to something here

Both stretching and stretching with arm pedaling improved ankle joint mobility. Patients had a better range of motion and improvements in ankle stiffness. In terms of stiffness, pedaling combined with stretching was better than stretching exercises alone. But for ankle range of motion, there was no difference between the two exercises. Despite improvements in ankle motion, patients didn’t walk any faster. Researchers noted that walking speed remained unchanged despite stretching exercises. However, flexibility in the ankle joint and reduction in stiffness are still noteworthy results that could help stroke patients in recovery!

Try it at home or with your therapist today!

You can easily find an arm pedaling device to use at home. You can try to arm pedal while stretching out your calves simultaneously. The best way to go about it is to pedal at a speed of 1 cycle per second, with low resistance. This low key exercise can provide you a great benefit combined with a simple calf stretch you can do yourself too. All you have to do is stand in a way where you have your legs completely straightened while leaning forward at an angle. That will help to stretch out your calves. Simply standing this way while using an arm pedal device can give you the unique combination of these two exercises. You can also ask your therapist to help you achieve this motion too. Talk with your rehab specialist today to see whether combining arm pedaling with calf stretching could be an effective regimen for you.

The lead author of this study was Akira Ochi, from the Division of Physical Therapy at Seijoh University in Toukai-City, Japan.

Editorial note:

It turns out that pedaling with your arms and stretching your legs can reduce joint stiffness in your ankles and increase mobility.