Over the years, I have worked with a wide array of seniors and individuals with mobility impairments and overall issues with strength. One of the most common issues that I see is a lack of overall leg strength. This unfortunately leads to numerous downstream issues in their activities of daily lives. Some of the individuals I have worked with have expressed not being able to get out of a chair as easy, all the way to needing assistance to get off of the toilet. Although you may not be in a current position of this lack of leg strength, it can surely happen to anyone. Making sure that we continually work our leg muscles and build muscle and strength in them is important for long term health and independence. The video listed above will show you a few exercises that will help keep your legs strong, and hopefully keep you more independent in the process!
For one of the exercises, we recommend that you have some type of “boost” that you can use to allow yourself to be raised higher in a chair. This can be something as basic as a towel or old pillow. We typically recommend to use a balance pad, as this allows a little bit of cushion, put enough firmness so you aren’t losing your “boost.” The balance pad that we used in the video, can be found on amazon here.
Beginner Exercises for Seniors to Strengthen Their Legs
Once you have an object that you can use to boost yourself up, you are ready to begin strengthening your legs! The exercises we are demonstrating today aren’t the only ones that you can do to help increase your leg strength as a senior, but they do offer a great start for beginners who have not done structured exercise before. For all of the exercises we are going to try to be able to find a variation where we can do 10 repetitions with a slight burn in the muscle towards the end. The three leg exercises that we are going to talk about today are the following:
- Sit To Stand
- Calf Raise
- Toe Raise
Sit To Stand
The sit to stand is one of the anchor points I use in almost every program for seniors and individuals with disabilities. An incredibly important movement for daily life, the sit to stand targets a common activity that everyone does on a daily basis: getting up out of a chair. The simplest way to describe a sit to stand is to find a chair, sit down slowly, and then stand up again. That in itself is a sit to stand! This exercise might be tough for beginners or seniors, so there are a couple ways to make it easier. As mentioned above, you can add a balance pad or other object to boost yourself up. This will decrease the range of motion slightly, allowing an easier variation for yourself. In addition to this, you can also use your arms to push down slightly on your legs, giving you a little extra boost. The last way you can do this is to add support for yourself in front of the chair you are sitting in. In the video above, I use a wooden plank as support. For yourself, you could use a walker, cane, or even handle on a wall. All of these are ways to make the exercise easier, ideally to where you can do at least 10 sit to stands in a row. If you can already get out of the chair easy, you can make it harder on yourself by doing the following. First, complete the sit to stand with your arms straight out in front of you. If this is easy, try crossing your arms over your body. If that is still easy, try completing the sit to stand while putting your arms straight above your head. Respectively, these three ways are different all progressively more difficult and a great challenge if you are strong enough.
Once you have completed your sit to stands, you can start to move into some calf raises. Calf raises work your calves, or the muscles on the back of your lower legs. Having strong calves is important for walking speed and stability, in addition to ankle health. For the calf raise, I recommend grabbing onto an object for support, as this exercise is very difficult on your balance. Next, you are simply going to raise your heels up as high as you can, and then slowly lower yourself back down. If you find this too tough to do multiple times, try to simply stand on your toes for 30 seconds, while holding onto something. To make this exercise harder, you can use a balance pad or a stair step to put your toes on, allowing your heels to hang off the edge. Complete the same calf raise with this variation, and you are increasing the range of motion for the movement. Another way you can make this exercise harder is by trying to do it on one leg, which is also demonstrated in the video above.
Last but not least is the toe raise. For the toe raise, you are going to be doing the opposite movement listed above. Go ahead and find another sturdy object to grab onto, and then very carefully lift your toes as high as possible. This will work the front of your lower leg muscles, which help in picking your foot up off the ground. Make sure you stand up tall when doing this exercise, and not bend over at all throughout the movement. As demonstrated in the video above, you can make this more difficult by leaning your back and butt against the wall, with your feet out in front of you. Trying to complete the movement again, you are increasing the range of motion, making it a little more difficult.
Overall, these are once again just a few of many exercises that seniors or beginners can do to hopefully increase the overall strength in their lower bodies. With time, these movement can help tremendously in improving your overall strength, and in turn independence. We wish you the best of luck on your exercises, and hope you find the video above helpful as well!
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