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How to Strengthen Legs in the Elderly: 10 Exercises to Do at Home

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From reducing the risk of falls to improving overall mobility, leg strength plays a vital role in helping seniors continue to stay active and maintain an independent lifestyle. Sure, you can hit the gym or enroll in classes, but there are also plenty of simple and effective exercises you can do to strengthen your legs on your own!

Whether you’re an older adult looking to stay fit or a child wanting to support your parents’ health, these are some leg-strengthening  exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home:

  • Seated leg lifts
  • Ankle circles
  • Heel raises
  • Sit-to-stands
  • Side leg raises
  • Marching in place
  • Knee extensions
  • Hip bridges
  • Toe taps
  • Calf stretches

The Benefits of Exercising Regularly

Regular physical activity has numerous benefits for seniors, extending well beyond just improving leg strength. It helps maintain a healthy weight, which is essential for overall health. Exercising regularly also boosts mental well-being by releasing endorphins, reducing stress and fostering a sense of happiness. Getting the heart rate up from time to time also helps maintain cardiovascular health, keeping the heart and lungs in top shape.

Focusing on leg-strengthening exercises also has specific advantages. Strong legs improve balance and coordination, which in turn reduces the risk of falls—a common concern for older adults. Strong and healthy legs allow older adults to maintain independence in their daily lives.

10 Leg-Strengthening Exercises for the Elderly

1. Seated Leg Lifts

Seated leg lifts are a great starting point for seniors to strengthen their quads:

  • Sit on a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Slowly lift one leg straight out in front of you.
  • Hold for a few seconds before lowering it back down.
  • Slowly raise the other leg, pause, and lower it back down..
  • Repeat 10 times.

2. Ankle Circles

Ankle circles can help stabilize your ankles and get the blood flowing in your feet:

  • While seated, lift one foot off the ground. You can use a foam roller or a rolled towel to prop your foot up. 
  • Turn your ankle in circles 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
  • Repeat with the same steps with the other ankle.

3. Heel Raises

Heel raises help strengthen the calves and improve overall balance:

  • Stand behind a chair or use a wall for support.
  • Slowly raise your heels off the ground, standing on your tiptoes.
  • Hold this position for a second, then lower your heels back down.
  • Repeat this motion 10-15 times. 

4. Sit-to-Stands

For some functional strength building, this exercise mimics the natural movement of sitting and standing:

  • Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and arms crossed over your chest.
  • Without using your hands, slowly stand up, pause for a full breath, and sit back down.
  • Repeat 10 times.

5. Side Leg Raises

Side leg raises work the hip muscles to improve stability:

  • Stand behind a chair for support.
  • Lift one leg straight out to the side, hold for a few seconds, then lower it back down.
  • Do this 10 times on each side. 
A caretaker leads a group of seniors in a series of chair exercises

6. Marching in Place

Marching in place increases heart rate, strengthens the legs, and improves coordination. It’s an easy way to stay moving while watching TV or movies. The exercise is fairly simple, but focus on your form:

  • Stand tall and march in place, lifting your knees as high as you can manage.
  • Aim for 1–2 minutes of marching. 

7. Step Ups

Step ups help improve your coordination and can make climbing stairs easier by working the different leg muscles at once:

  • Stand in front of a high box or a step. (Use support if necessary.)
  • Place one foot on the elevated surface and push yourself up with that foot, lifting yourself onto the box or step.
  • Hold for 3 seconds before lowering yourself back down.
  • Do this 10 times on each foot.

8. Hip Bridges

Hip bridges strengthen the glutes and the lower back muscles. Use a mat when you lie on the ground for added comfort:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Slowly raise your hips towards the ceiling. 
  • Hold the position for a few seconds before lowering your hips back down.
  • Repeat 10 times. 

9. Toe Taps

Toe taps are great for improving ankle flexibility and coordination while being simple enough that you can do them anytime you’re sitting down:

  • While seated, extend one leg out in front of you just far enough that your foot is off the ground.
  • With your foot hovering slightly above the ground, tap the ground with your toes. 
  • Aim for 10–15 taps for each leg.

10. Calf Stretches

Calf stretches enhance flexibility and reduce muscle tightness. They’re an excellent stretch to do before bed if you’ve been waking up with leg cramps:

  • Place your hands against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Keep one leg about a step behind the other, with the heel flat on the floor. 
  • Slowly bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight. 
  • Moving your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before switching legs and repeating the process. 

Staying Active in the Golden Years

You can integrate the exercises seamlessly into your daily life by combining activities when possible. For example, you can march in place while watching TV, or you can do seated leg lifts during a phone call. Partnering with a friend or family member can also make the routine more enjoyable and provide additional motivation.

Creating an exercise routine is the first step towards making you stronger, and it’s as simple as finding the exercises you like and getting started. Consistency is key to seeing improvements, so aim to do these exercises at least 3 times a week.

It’s also important to listen to your body and not overdo it. Start with a few repetitions and gradually increase as you build strength and confidence. Remember, the goal is to improve leg strength without causing strain or injury.

At Tyler Mill Senior Living, we encourage active living by offering various amenities and activities for our residents. If you or your loved one are interested in learning how our services incorporate different tastes or lifestyles, book a tour or contact us to see what we’re all about. We look forward to helping you stay strong and vibrant!

Written by Angela Clark

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