As a senior, you know that keeping up with your exercises is extremely important. Staying active and mobile can be the key to a happy and healthy life for many. If you have not yet developed a regular exercise routine, the good news is that it is not too late to start! Leg strengthening exercises for seniors are especially crucial to an overall healthy exercise routine.
Exercise Is Great for the Body – and the Mind
When you follow a regular exercise routine you not only build strength, you also improve your balance. Improving balance is paramount for seniors as it greatly reduces the risk of falling. Seniors who maintain their physical fitness are able to stay active and maintain their independence. Studies have shown that the ability to perform everyday functions independently is a major contributor to the happiness and well-being of seniors.
As we age it can become increasingly difficult to stay active and exercise with regularity. However, doing so is increasingly important and can make all the difference in the world. For any senior who worries about the potential to fall or have an accident, or who is worrying about their body stiffening, aging and becoming out of shape, exercise can seem like a daunting task, but it does not need to be intimidating!
You may notice that once you start exercising your mood and perspective shift. The shift may be subtle at first, but as you keep up with your fitness routine, you will see more and more gains and you may feel a general sense of agency and positivity. This shift in perspective can be very empowering for seniors.
Know that you know the wide range of benefits that exercise can have, we will discuss the importance of daily leg strengthening exercises.
As we target different parts of our body for strengthening and stretching it is important that we focus on leg exercises. Doing regular leg exercises as part of a physical therapy for elderly legs regimen can go a long way in preserving the freedom of mobility for many seniors. On any given day, a person may walk around their house or apartment, take a dog out or go to the mailbox. All of these small movements are important parts of a daily routine.
We don’t always recognize how important our leg strength is until it is diminished. Physical therapy for elderly legs helps keep the legs flexible and strong. The connection between leg strength and the lower back is also a factor. Stronger legs can actually help keep lower back pain at bay. Additionally, increasing the muscle mass in the legs means less fat and a potential for reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Add the following as part of a program of physical therapy for elderly legs:
5 Leg Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
- Ankle ABCs and Circles
Slow and gentle movement of the ankles is a wonderful way to warm up your leg muscles and is particularly great at the beginning of any exercise practice. Maintaining a good range of motion in your ankles is important and can be quite easy and even fun if you make it a routine.
Ankle ABCs or Circles are great because you can do them from a seated or lying position. It is also possible to use them in combination with a standing balancing exercise where you have one foot planted firmly on the floor while you are working with the opposite ankle. We highly recommend using a support such as a railing or wall if you chose to do this exercise in standing. Ankle exercises can be done casually any time of day. You can even do this exercise while sitting in your favorite chair watching television!
To do this exercise you slowly move your ankle so that your toes are outlining the letters of the alphabet. If you prefer not to go through the alphabet you can use simple circles. Move clockwise and counterclockwise for full benefit.
- Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are extremely beneficial to the muscles in your legs, lower back, buttocks, hips and thighs. All of those areas are targeted in this one simple exercise! Increasing strength in these areas is important to improving balance.
Leg lifts are another versatile exercise and can be done while lying or in a standing position. Here we will discuss the standing variation as it is likely the most accessible to many seniors. You may choose to stand sideways behind a chair and while using the back of the chair for support you can lift your outer leg to the side. While lifting your leg remember to keep the leg straight from hip to heel. Hold the pose for a count of five and then slowly lower your leg. For extra credit, engage your leg muscles as you lower your leg rather than just letting it drop. Switch sides and repeat and try to work up to ten rotations.
- Partial Squats
This variation on the squat is a great strengthening exercise! Use the back of a chair for support and lower yourself into a partial squatting position. To do this you will bend your knees while keeping your back straight. Do not bend to the point of experiencing pain. This exercise should be challenging, but not painful. Lift yourself back into standing and repeat up to ten times.
- Leg Extensions
This is a variation of leg extensions that can be done in standing. Plant your feet firmly and use the back of a chair for support. Lift one of your legs out behind you while keeping your knee straight and then bring that leg back to the front and switch sides. Another variation of this exercise is to add small weights. If you choose to do this start with a two pound weight and work up to five, if you like.
- Heel Stands
You will be using a chair for support for this exercise as well. Heel stands are great for strengthening your calves. You can stand straight with your feet planted and using the chair in front of you for support, gently lift your toes up so that you are standing on your heels.
Make it your mission to add one, two, or all five of these leg strengthening exercises for seniors to your routine. The difference you will experience goes beyond physical; you will also feel a boost of confidence and wellbeing.