It’s vital that seniors stay active as they age. Exercise can improve mobility, improve your mood and brain health, and most importantly, help decrease your risk of becoming injured from a fall. There are many safe exercises seniors can and should take part in daily, and leg strengthening exercises are particularly beneficial.
Leg exercises for the elderly can help preserve independence and mobility. You use your legs for most daily activities, from getting out of bed in the morning to walking up and down your driveway to get the mail. Leg strengthening exercises help keep your legs flexible and strong, and can also help increase the strength in your lower back to reduce pain. You’ll also find you have more lean muscle mass, less fat and can reduce your risk for osteoporosis by engaging in weekly strengthening exercises.
Types of Leg Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Before you start with your leg strengthening exercises, talk to your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to move forward with a program. Many leg exercises don’t require any equipment at all, so they can be done right in your own home. As you progress and get stronger, however, utilizing equipment can add more resistance and help strengthen your muscles even further.
Here are just a few of the best leg exercises for the elderly:
- Ankle circles: While sitting or standing, lift one leg off the floor and rotate the ankle in a circular motion five times, then repeat rotating in the opposite direction. Do a few sets of this exercise with both ankles to improve ankle flexibility. It’s also a great way to get your lower legs warmed up for more exercises.
- Step up: Use a 6-inch-high step or box and step up slowly with your right leg. Count to three as you hold and balance, then lower yourself down carefully. Repeat with the left leg, holding on to something for support if necessary. This exercise will help train your balance and coordination.
- Calf raises: Place a phone book or something of similar thickness on the floor to stand on. Rise onto your toes, holding your heels off the ground for five seconds. Repeat this five times, using the back of a chair for support, and then reposition your feet so your heels are hanging off the phone book. Allow your heels to drop to the floor to feel a good stretch in your calf muscles. This exercise will build up your muscles to give you more stepping power and help carry you up hills or uneven terrain.
- Leg curl: Stand behind a chair, holding onto the back for support. Place your weight on one leg, then lift the opposite knee, bending it as far as you can, and hold for three seconds. Slowly lower and switch sides. This exercise helps strengthen the hamstring muscles and improve your balance and posture.
- Squats: You can start off by sitting in a chair and pushing yourself to a standing position, then lowering yourself down slowly. As you get stronger, stand in front of the chair, lowering yourself until you are almost seated, and then stand back up, repeating the movement five to ten times. Squats work your thighs and buttocks and help improve your range of motion.
Choose at least two of the above exercises to add to your physical fitness routine throughout the week, performing them at least twice a week for best results. Don’t get discouraged if it seems to be taking a long time for your leg muscles to strengthen; it usually takes around 4-6 weeks for your body to get used to these new exercises and to see results.
American Senior Communities’ New Energy Wellness program is designed to improve your current fitness level and give you more energy. For more information, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com/NEW.