After the age of 40, muscle mass and strength weaken. This means we can perform less and less physical activity. Over the age of 50, strength loss increases by 15% after each decade. Muscles start to atrophy when they aren’t being used. Meaning if you don’t use it, you lose it. Sarcopenia is the biggest cause of this disability in older adults. Sarcopenia is a phenomenon that occurs in our muscles when calcium begins to leak from the ryanodine receptor channel complex. These are a group of proteins in our muscle cells. The more calcium we lose, the weaker our muscles get. The best way to minimize this problem is, you guessed it, strength training! We will focus particularly on leg exercises for seniors and why they are important.
Of course, everyone knows that exercising improves your quality of life. But as we get older, exercise becomes increasingly necessary. The longer you stay healthy and active, the longer you will be able to retain your independence. Combining aerobic activity and strength training is the best thing you can do to promote your health.
Strength training of the lower body is especially important because your legs are the balance and support system for the rest of the body. Having strong leg muscles is vital when you stand up from a chair and climb stairs. And having good balance in your legs lowers the risk of falls. Falls account for 30 to 40% of injuries in the elderly. They are so common among seniors that an older adult is admitted to the hospital every 11 seconds due to a fall. And, a senior dies every 19 minutes due to a fall. Not only are falls extremely deadly, even a minor one can be debilitating. It can lead you or your loved one into a long downward spiral of degrading health. It is unrealistic that you will be able to completely prevent senior falls. However, regular exercise reduces that risk factor by 23%.
Not only will exercise reduce your risk of falls, but you will have more energy, lose weight, prevent and counteract disease, and improve the functioning of your brain. Exercising regularly reduces your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping 50%. And, keeping the weight off helps your joints not to be overburdened. This prevents osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that protects your bones begins to wear out over time. So let’s keep those legs moving!
Before we get into some of the best leg exercises for seniors, we briefly want to touch on what exercises seniors should avoid. Please remember that a good portion of popular exercises we see in the gym are not meant for the elderly. Most hardcore exercises are meant for younger adults who want to lose weight and gain muscle. Since older adults have issues with joint pain, poor balance, poor posture, and deteriorating muscles, these exercises are not ideal. An elderly person could easily become injured. A few leg exercises for seniors to avoid are:
So you or your loved one are motivated to start an exercise program. Or perhaps you are a live-in caregiver who wants to motivate your client. We honor and admire your courage to make a change. However, you must keep in mind that results do not come quickly. You must be patient as seeing results takes time. Ease into it. It usually takes about 4 weeks to see results after you start exercising regularly. Your strength and endurance will increase gradually. Below we have included low-impact strength and balance exercises for seniors. These exercises are recommended to be performed 3 times a week. And, we recommend starting at 10 repetitions each. The more strong and comfortable you feel, the more you can slowly increase your repetitions. This exercise routine should never hurt. Please stop immediately if you are in pain.
This exercise is a great way to warm up the legs and feet. Keeping your ankles flexible is important for maintaining balance, stability, and flexibility. Having strong ankles are important for maintaining control as you walk. They help you stop and change directions. They also help keep us standing up straight and supported over our center of gravity. You can easily perform ankle circles in a sitting position. If you are sitting for a prolonged period it is a good idea to do ankle circles to keep the blood flowing. Here’s how ankle circles are done:
This exercise targets your hip flexors and thighs. You will be able to walk farther and faster. It also helps you pick your feet up so you don’t trip over things. In this exercise, you can use 2 to 5-pound ankle weights for an extra challenge.
This exercise is especially useful for knee rehabilitation and improving your range of motion. If you have a knee injury, consult your physical therapist first to see if this exercise could be right for you. Having flexible and functioning knees are so important for balance, standing, and avoiding injuries. In this exercise, you can use 2 to 5-pound ankle weights for an extra challenge.
Strengthening your calves is important for balance and walking. These are the powerhouse of your legs and aid you in the ability to push off of surfaces as you walk. Calf strength is also important for walking up hills and through uneven surfaces. We recommend doing these chair exercises a couple of times a day. Getting the blood pumping up from your lower legs to your brain will help avoid you getting light-headed and prevents fainting.
This exercise targets the hamstring muscles and increases your ability to bend and flex your knee. This improves standing and walking, which means better balance and less risk of falls. In this exercise, you can use 2 to 5-pound ankle weights for an extra challenge.
Strengthening your hips is essential for walking and side-stepping. Keeping your hips healthy and strong prevents osteoarthritis of the hips. In this exercise, you can use 2 to 5-pound ankle weights for an extra challenge.
Of all the exercises listed here, this is the most important. The ability to get up from a chair, toilet, bed, or out of a car on your own is one of the biggest keys to maintaining your independence. This exercise is essential for leg and hip strength. Repeat this exercise as often as you can to stay strong. Use a walker or other form of support if needed. For an extra challenge, hold 2 to 5-pound dumbbells, in each hand, against your chest.
This exercise promotes the stretching of the ankle, which gets the blood flow in your legs going. Focusing on this area is essential for your ability to stand and balance. Keeping your heels strong will allow you to step over things without tripping.
Strengthening your quadriceps and hips are important for standing, balancing, and walking. These muscles are also helpful for getting up out of a chair and lifting things. The more comfortable and stronger you get with this exercise, the deeper you can lunge. To further challenge yourself, hold a 2 to 5-pound weight in each hand.
This exercise is especially good for your hip flexors, abdominal muscles, and quadriceps. These in turn help with your flexibility and balance. For an extra challenge, add a 2 to 5-pound ankle weight to each foot.
This exercise targets your quadriceps and hip flexors, which means an increase in hip flexibility. This is important for your ability to stand up from a chair or to step over something. And the longer you can stand up and balance on your own, the longer you can be independent. To further challenge yourself in this exercise, hold a 2 to 5-pound weight in each hand.
This exercise is great for hip muscles and glutes, aiding you to stand firm and walk confidently. Maintaining strong hips is vital for your overall leg function. Avoid arching your back in this exercise to prevent injury. For an extra challenge, add a 2 to 5-pound ankle weight to each foot.
This is an important leg strengthening exercise as it focuses on one very important skill: stepping up. Being unable to climb stairs seriously limits places you can go. This exercise will help build your glutes and quadriceps so you can climb stairs and step over things. For an extra challenge, add 2 to 5-pound ankle weights to each foot.
We genuinely hope you can incorporate these leg exercises for seniors into your daily activities. Taking the time to improve your or a loved one’s health now will benefit the long run. If you are in further need of finding a caregiver or other assistance, we are here for you. Post a job with us to hire someone to help you when things get too difficult.