Leg Exercises for Seniors

Leg exercises are not only recommended for seniors that are recovering from an injury, but also simply due to the natural loss of strength and stability. We need exercises that challenge and improve our balance and strength to reduce the risk of falls and make our daily activities easier.

These leg exercises strengthen all of the major muscles in your legs and improve your ability to stand, walk, and keep your balance as you negotiate your way over uneven surfaces. Leg exercises are a vital part of your exercise strategy for staying safe, active, and connected with your community.

  1. Sit to Stand.
  2. Seated Knee Extension.
  3. Hamstring Curls.
  4. Toe and Heels.
  5. Hip Side Raise.
Watch my instructional video

Leg exercises will help to increase the circulation in your calves, shins, thighs, and hamstrings. During the day, we are often seated and inactive, resulting in swelling in our ankles and feet. These exercises will help decrease swelling by helping your vascular system, and lymphatic system, remove extra fluid with the muscular movement. These two systems are the only way to move fluid in our body.

Exercise 1

Sit to Stand. Begin sitting in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Scoot up to the front edge of the chair. Bring your toes back to under your knees. If you need to place your hands on the chair, hold onto the side or arm rests. Begin leaning forward until your nose is over your toes. From here power up from your legs until reaching the standing position. Squeeze your glutes when in full standing and bring your shoulders back and down. Reverse the sequence by taking a bow and bringing your tailbone back to the chair to sit. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 2

Knee Extension. Sit in your chair comfortably with your feet flat on the floor, and chest lifted. Begin by extending one knee until your leg is straight out. Squeeze your thigh muscle and point your toes to the ceiling to enhance your exercise. Hold briefly, then return your foot to the start position and repeat with the other leg.

Exercise 3

Standing Hamstring Curls: Begin by standing in back of your chair, feet hip width apart, chest lifted. Bring one heel back and up toward your buttock. Hold briefly, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Exercise 4

Toes and heels. Begin by standing in back of your chair with feet hip width apart. Rise up on your toes slowly, briefly hold this position, then rise up on your heels and briefly hold. Repeat 20 times.

Exercise 5

Standing Side Raise: Begin by standing in back of your chair, feet hip width apart, chest lifted. Bring one leg out to the side as high as comfortable. Keep your toes pointed to the wall in front to work your side muscles. Hold briefly, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side.

These leg exercises are designed to address the most common types of muscle weakness, including tissue loss due to inactivity. Without resistance training for our skeletal muscles, we can lose strength, mobility, flexibility, and even our balance. It is vital to have a consistent exercise program with a strengthening component at least twice a week. Once a week is good, but 2 or more is even better. It is hard to improve our strength with only one strengthening session per week.

If you are considering surgery for your knees or hips, a strengthening program is even more important. Strong legs will make your rehab go so much better, and put you in a position to make great gains during your physical therapy sessions due to the solid base of strength from your exercises.

These leg exercises are safe, simple, and highly effective and based on the principles of strength training. Studies from around the world have shown that strength training will benefit women and men of all ages and all fitness levels.

If you have been inactive for a while, or only mildly active at the moment, and realize that regular exercise is important for your health and well being, then start slowly with these leg exercises. It takes four to six weeks for your body to adjust to your new activity level. Your muscles will strengthen, then your tendons, ligaments, and bones will begin to respond by adapting to the new stresses placed on them.

This is a great start to building stronger legs, improving your flexibility, and most importantly, preserving your independence. You will reduce your risk of fall, make daily tasks easier, your life happier, more confident, and proud that you can do it.

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Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.