Muscle loss is the main reason many seniors get frail and suffer from reduced balance with age. Strength training is not just good for your health; it also keeps you fit and helps you maintain independence.
In this post, we focus specifically on how seniors can strengthen their legs. We provide tips on safe exercises and how you can strengthen your legs beyond working out.
Can Seniors Regain Leg Strength?
While muscle growth may be slower in older people, it is possible for seniors to regain lost muscle mass.
Regular strength training, whether at the gym or at home, will maintain muscle growth, ensuring you remain strong and fit with age.
You can strengthen any part of your body with workouts, be it arms, your core, or your legs.
The kind of exercises you do determine which muscles you target. If you want to regain and build leg strength, you’ll need to focus on workouts like squats, step-ups, and walking.
These leg-strengthening workouts are not only good for building your muscles and helping with balance and stability; they also reduce your risk of certain health conditions like diabetes and arthritis.
Best Leg Exercises For Seniors
Choose an exercise that engages leg muscles and is safe for you to do.
If you have a major health condition or this is the first time you are working out in a long time, talk to your doctor first before doing any strenuous exercises.
Here are the best workouts for leg exercises. Most of these require no equipment, so you can do them at home, at the park or wherever you are.
1. Sit to stand
Sit to stand exercises strengthen your legs, thighs, glutes, and hips. They can make it easier to sit and get up from a chair and use the bathroom.
Stand in front of a chair with your legs slightly apart. Spread your hands straight in front of you then slowly lower yourself slowly to the chair, then rise up again. Repeat 10 times then rest, making sure to maintain slow movements.
Do another couple sets of 10.
Always keep your knees over your ankles to make sure your body weight is on your heels, not your knees.
If you can access some stairs, this is a great leg-strengthening and balance workout.
Stand near the bottom step with your hand on the rail for support. Lift your left foot slowly and place it flat on the first step.
Then lift your right foot, making sure you keep your left knee straight over the ankle, and place it next to the left foot.
Place your weight on the right foot (again, keeping the knees over the ankles) and slowly lower the left foot back to the landing.
Repeat this up and down routine for 2-3 sets, repeating it at least 10 times per set. Remember to go slowly; that’s how your legs build strength.
3. Calf Raises
Calf raises strengthen your calves, which improves mobility, balance and ankle stability. Regular calf raises make it easier to climb stairs and walk uphill.
To do calf raises, stand behind a chair and hold the back of the chair. Lift your heels as high as you can until you are standing on your tiptoes. Slowly lower your heels back to the ground.
Repeat 10 times then rest. Do 1-2 additional sets of 10 calf raises each.
Tip: To make calf raises more challenging, do them without holding onto the chair. But only if you are sure it’s safe to do so.
4. Side Leg Raises
Side leg raises strengthen your legs, hips, thighs and glutes. This workout reduces the risk of hip fractures, improves your balance, and tones your lower body.
It also improves hip flexibility.
Stand behind a sturdy chair (you can do it without the chair if you don’t need the support) and hold onto the back.
Stand straight and slowly lift your right leg to the side. Hold for a few seconds then bring it back down slowly.
Repeat 10 times then switch to the right leg.
Raise each leg 10 times for a full set. See if you can do 2-3 sets.
5. Squats or Mini Squats
If you have the strength, you can do a full squat. But a mini squat is easier and safer for most seniors.
Stand with your feet at shoulder width. Stretch your hands straight in front of you or hold onto the back of a chair.
Slowly bend your knees up to around half a squat or as low as you can go. Slowly get back up. Repeat 10 times, then do two other sets of 10 mini squats each.
Squats are great for strengthening legs as well as your knees. They also boost your balance and stability, making it easier to sit and stand, walk, go up stairs and do other activities without falling.
Here’s a video demonstrating how to do a mini or partial squat.
Does Walking Increase Leg Strength For Seniors?
Walking as well as hiking, running or jogging are great ways to build your leg muscles.
Adding a walk to your daily schedule will build leg strength as well as provide plenty of cardiovascular benefits.
To make walking more beneficial, look for paths and trails that are sloped. Going uphill stresses your calves, thighs and glutes more, forcing them to get stronger.
Also try walking at a brisk pace to get your heart beating a bit faster.
Keep in mind that walking on its own is not enough to build leg muscles. You’ll eventually plateau. It works best when combined with other leg strengthening exercises.
How To Strengthen Legs Without Exercises?
If you find it difficult to set time aside for a proper workout, you can still build your leg muscles through various day to day activities. Here are some of the best.
- Walk when running errands such as going to the grocery store or picking mail.
- Start gardening. The walking, lifting, bending and squatting involved in gardening are all great ways to build muscles in your legs and other parts of your body.
- Go swimming for fun. Swimming targets a variety of muscles.
- Dance at home or go to a dance studio with friends.
Basically, anything that gets you up and moving is good for your legs and body.