Welcome friend! In this post, you will learn about simple leg exercises for the elderly that can be done at home!
If you can’t afford an expensive gym membership or just don’t like going to the gym, but want to improve your leg strength, I’ve got some good news! You can train your legs with a few simple exercises at home.
It’s wise to improve and maintain your leg strength as you get older. Especially if you haven’t been very active during your adult life, your leg muscles can become weak as you age.
You might not have any problems with leg function right now but if you don’t train your legs you can lose the full functionality fast as you get older or if you get sick or injured.
Having strong legs will give you the freedom to go anywhere you want! A flight of stairs? No problem. A steep hill? Like a breeze. A 10-hour hike in the mountains? Sure!
So let’s get going by looking at some of the benefits of having strong legs as we get older.
Benefits Of Simple Leg Exercises For The Elderly
Your legs are your prime movers and to most folks they essentially mean freedom. Think about it. If you lose the ability to use your legs it puts a lot of limitations on where you can go and what you can do. Especially on your own.
Legs carry the largest muscles of your body and have a significant effect on your overall activity and metabolism. Without strong legs, It’s hard to keep active and keep your metabolism functioning, which is important for resisting most lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
It’s especially dangerous to have weak legs when you get injured in old age. Strong leg muscles will both prevent injuries and make your recovery faster but most importantly you can regain your ability to walk after being bedridden for several weeks. Leg strength can actually predict mortality!
Strong legs are important for your health, self-reliance, and freedom. People take these for granted when they are younger and healthy. As you age you have to fight for these things in the battle against age-related deterioration of our bodies.
Doing simple leg exercises is a cheap (or free) way to keep your leg muscles strong and the benefits are abundant:
- You will help build and maintain leg strength which is important for your overall health, freedom, and vigor.
- You will help maintain a full range of motion in your legs. As we get older our joints to become stiffer and tendons become less elastic. This can be countered with regular stretching and full-range strength training.
- Leg exercises improve your balance exponentially. As you do them you learn to maintain balance on a full range of motion of the legs. If you slip or lose balance, strong legs can save you from a disaster. Check out Fall Prevention Execises For Seniors for more information.
- Doing everyday things becomes much easier and safer
To learn more about the importance of leg strength for seniors check out the
Before we get to the exercises, let’s look at the musculature of the legs.
Muscles Of The Legs
The muscles of the legs can be divided into three categories:
Muscles of the shins: These are responsible for the extension (straightening) and flexion (bending) of the ankle joint. This includes your powerful calf muscles and the smaller ankle flexors partly in front of your thigh.
Calf muscles are especially important for effortless walking, running, and jumping. They function as elastic storage of kinetic energy on every step, sort of like a spring. If your upper legs are strong your shin muscles rarely need much real work but they do love being active!
It’s important to keep your calves stretched to avoid pain when walking and the infamous Achilles heels tear.
Muscles of the thighs: These are responsible for mainly the extension and flexion of the knee joint but some of them also function over the hip joint.
The biggest movers of the knee joint are the quadriceps in the front of your thigh. The quadriceps are one of the largest and strongest muscles groups in the human body along with the glutes and they are responsible for a great deal of the strength in your legs.
The other strong and very important muscle group is at the back of the thighs. The hamstrings. They are responsible for both the flexion (bending) of the knee and the extension of the hips. They are a very large and strong muscle group that many people simply never learn to use properly. You can learn more about them in the article Hamstring Stretches For Seniors.
Hamstrings are a very important, if not the most important muscle group in the legs for posture and healthy function of the knees and hips.
Muscles of the hips: The hip joint is a bit more complex than the knee joint, as your hips can be abducted (move your legs apart) and adducted (move your legs together) as well as rotated, and flexed, and extended.
I will not go into all the nitty bitty details as they are not important to understand for exercising your legs. What is important to know is that the biggest muscles of your body – the glutes – are responsible for the extension of the hips in conjunction with the hamstrings.
Glutes are also responsible for maintaining good posture on your lower back. Strong hip extensors help you both cure and avoid lower back pain and protect you from back injuries when lifting heavy things.
Now that we know the most important muscles and muscle groups of the lower body, it’s time to look at simple and effective exercises for them!
The squat is probably the most functional and natural leg exercise there is. Babies learn to squat before they learn to walk and in many cultures humans rest by squatting instead of sitting. And actually, most of the population of the planet squat when nature calls.
The squats use all the muscles of your upper legs and are great for balance as well. The only thing you need for squatting is enough room and maybe something to hold on to for support. A side of a table will do just fine.
For some seniors achieving a full unassisted squat itself can be a feat. Some can do it quite effortlessly. If you don’t have any serious illnesses or disabilities that affect your joints and ligaments, you should be able to achieve mobility for a decent squat with enough training. Keeping your back neutral ensures you are using your hamstrings and glutes properly.
The bodyweight version of the squat with as much range of motion as possible is the best place to start. If you can get low enough to have your thighs parallel to the ground while maintaining a neutral back, that’s great.
When squatting to improve your leg strength, the most important thing is to avoid lower back rounding. If you feel your back rounding, don’t go so low just yet. You can go lower as your hamstrings and hips get accustomed to the movement.
Keep your hands in front of you and bring your butt back as you decent and keep your weight on the middle of your foot. The weight on the middle of the foot is very important and if you focus on that, the rest of your body tends to correct the positioning of the squat.
You can start with as many squats as you can comfortably do for three sets. Once you can do three sets of 20 squats every other day you are in a good shape and can add some other exercises for variety.
At this point, you can add resistance with dumbbells or a barbell. These are more demanding movements that demand proper coaching, so keep that in mind.
Next, you will be training the hamstrings and the glutes through hip flexion. This next movement teaches the correct movement patterns needed for lifting heavy objects for example.
I’m talking about the Romanian deadlift, that we will be doing with a kettlebell. You can use a dumbbell or some heavy object like a bucket filled with sand or water instead of the kettlebell in the beginning.
The Romanian deadlift can seem very similar to the squat but it focuses entirely on the hamstrings and glutes. It’s important to notice that you don’t bring your knees forward at all. Your shins remain vertical as you bring your hips back.
If you feel the need to bring your knees forward and drop your hips, don’t go so far. The whole point of the movement is to feel the stretch in your hamstrings and really squeeze your glutes at the top.
You should perform these with a moderate weight until you can perform around 3 sets of 20 repetitions.
You can then progress to kettlebell swings with the same weight if you wish. It is a more advanced movement that needs proper coaching.
With the squats and Romanian deadlifts, most of your upper leg muscles are trained. Neither of them really targets the calves, however. For that, we, fortunately, have a very simple exercise you can do anywhere! The calf raises.
Try to extend your ankle as high as possible. Use a table or a wall to help with balance. Once you can do around 20 of these, you can do them on a stair to increase the range of motion. This really stretches the calves and you should be careful.
You can get really sore really fast if you do too much too fast, so please start light and leave a few in the tank.
If you have problems with knee pain you might be thinking about how to build leg muscles with bad knees? Well, it’s not very easy, unfortunately. But it’s possible. You just have to have your attitude and expectations in line.
If your knee pain is because of injuries or osteoarthritis it’s important to consult your physician for the best exercise. In fact knee pain should always be assessed by a medical professional before trying to resolve it with exercise.
From the exercises before, with knee pain, you can usually do the Romanian deadlifts and calf raises without issues, since they require very little knee involvement.
But it’s important to find a way to train your quadriceps as well to have balanced leg strength or you risk making your knee pain worse.
This is easiest to do on a leg press machine in a gym. This is because knee pain usually occurs when the knee angle is very acute. If you limit your range of motion you can avoid pain. This however limits the effectiveness of the exercise. This can be countered by progressively increasing the load.
On a good leg press machine, it’s possible to find the range of motion your knees are comfortable with and increase the load when you can perform about 15 repetitions. You can learn more about the leg press in the article Leg Press For Seniors.
We hope you enjoyed reading these tips for easy leg exercises for the elderly. They are pretty easy to learn and can be performed in the privacy of your home with minimal equipment.
If you have any doubts about your abilities or have medical conditions, it’s always important to consult a medical professional and get a qualified trainer to teach you the correct exercise form.
Strong legs are a crucial part of being healthy in old age. Always remember to train safe and er on the side of caution if you have any pain or discomfort. You are much stronger than you think, just give your body time to adapt. If you like becoming stronger, check out these tips for training your shoulders as well.
If you have any questions about leg exercises or strength training in general please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
See you next time!