The importance of strong flexible calves

On July 30, 1924 Calvin Coolidge’s two sons, John 18 and Calvin Jr. 16 went out to play tennis. Earlier that day the family (pictured) had posed for formal pictures, and Calvin Jr. was anxious to get out of his formal clothes and play tennis. He did not wear socks that day.  He got a blister, then blood poisoning, and died July 7, 1924.

We now have antibiotics to prevent such tragedies. Even so, things can still get out of hand. Recently a friend of mine had a staph infection on his neck. He scratched it and then scratched his ankle. He developed cellulitis in his lower leg, his temperature spiked, and he ended up in the hospital taking IV antibiotics for five days. The same week, my brother had the same affliction and spent four days on an IV taking antibiotics before he got his infection under control. He had an infected blister. He has neuropathy in his feet and has less feeling to know if there is a problem. According this Medscape article those with diabetes are at increased risk for severe cellulitis, and the infection more often occurs in the leg.

This brings me to the problem that tight calves muscles present when walking. When walking the heels come off the ground early to compensate for the tight calf muscles. When the heels come off the ground early the weight of the body is not distributed over the entire foot bottom, and this stresses the foot structure causing foot problems such as neuropathy. I was told by a maker of prosthetic devices that the number one reason diabetics lose their feet is because of weak calves. Weak calves are generally tight. Stronger calves make for more flexible calves. Muscle has plasticity, tendons don’t. Also, the calves act as a secondary pump for the blood. Stronger calves pump more blood.

While it would not have changed the outcome of young Calvin Jr.'s life it is vitally important to keep the calves strong and flexible as we get older. At New Orleans Personal Training and Austin Personal Training calf exercises are a regular part of our regimen. BTW Calvin Jr.’s brother John lived a long life and died at age 93.