Thick ankles, or cankles, are usually caused by either excess leg fat that has dropped down below the calves due to gravity or from a medical condition that causes fluid retention. Barring a medical problem, you can slim your ankles but it requires taking a full-body approach since spot-reducing weight from just one part of your body is not possible. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. A comprehensive fitness program that includes regular exercise and a healthy eating plan can help to create the needed calorie deficit.
A calorie reduction of 3500 calories is needed to lose one pound of body fat. Therefore, to reduce your body weight by 1 to 2 pounds per week, you must consume 500 to 1000 less calories per day; losing overall body weight helps to slim the ankles. Your diet can be a helpful aid in creating a calorie deficit. Keep a food journal to calculate your current caloric intake; write down every single thing that you eat or drink throughout the day for three to five days. Take notice of high-calorie foods that can be easily eliminated, such as cookies, ice cream and candy. The food journal should also reveal when you are eating out of boredom or habit, rather than actually being hungry; cutting the useless eating out of your day can help reduce calories. Make smart food choices; focus on foods that are filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber, such as fresh fruit, vegetables and whole-grains. Choose lean forms of protein, such as fish and chicken breasts, over those that contain high amounts of saturated fat, like bacon or chicken thighs. Avoid foods high in salt, which can exacerbate fluid retention, especially in the legs and ankles. Foods high in potassium, such as oranges, bananas and potatoes, can help the body to flush out excess water; consult with a physician before increasing your potassium consumption.
The increased energy requirement during cardiovascular exercise makes it an efficient means of burning calories, which can help to create a caloric deficit and subsequently lead to slimmer ankles. The CDC recommends 60 to 90 minutes of cardiovascular activity performed on most days for weight loss. All forms of cardio will burn calories, however, some exercises are more efficient than others. For example, running for one hour at the pace of 10 mph will burn approximately 600 calories for someone weighing 125 pounds, 744 calories for a 155-pound person and 888 calories for a person who is 185 pounds. A 60-minute step aerobics class, for people of identical weights, will burn 420, 520 and 622 calories, respectively. Start at a moderate pace if you have been sedentary for a while; gradually increase the intensity as your body acclimates and you become stronger.
Strength training the major muscle groups throughout your body can help to burn calories. The lean muscle mass created from resistance training helps to boost your metabolism and maximize calorie-burn. Train the larger muscle groups – hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes in the lower body and the pectoralis major and latissiumus dorsi in the upper body – two to three times per week to maximize development. Choose a resistance level that allows you to reach failure in eight and 12 repetitions; failure means that you could not perform another rep with proper form. Mix up your resistance methods, such as weights, resistance bands, kettlebells and medicine balls, to continuously challenge your muscles and to keep your workouts from becoming monotonous. For example, substitute dumbbells for the barbell in a bench press or perform rows with a resistance band rather than free weights.
Though you cannot spot reduce fat from any one part of your body, you can create the appearance of slimmer ankles by training your calf muscles. The calves consist of two primary muscles, the diamond-shaped gastrocnemius and the soleus, which is located on the side of the calf. Standing calf raises target the larger gastrocnemius, while seated calf raises work the soleus. Include at least two calf training-sessions in your workouts each week. Start slow if you are new to calf exercises, such as three sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Gradually intensify the challenge as your calves become stronger; regularly increasing the stress placed on the calves, through heavier weights, a greater number of repetition and more sets, can help to maximize the development of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Some medical conditions can cause edema, or fluid retention in the body’s tissue, such as heart disease, lung disease, arthritis and thyroid disease. Pregnancy can also cause your legs, ankles and feet to retain fluid and swell. Certain medications, like corticosteroids, can cause edema as well. The feet and ankles are a common place for edema to occur. Increasing your water consumption and decreasing salt intake may help to reduce the fluid retention. Consult with a physician as soon as possible if you experience edema.