12 Best Leg Exercises For Seniors And The Elderly

If you are looking for one of the best FREE online resources for senior and elderly leg strengthening exercises, you found it!

leg exercise
Leg exercises are a vital part of senior and elderly fitness.

Strengthening the lower body is one of the most effective and efficient methods of preserving your independence and improving your health as you age.

Strengthening exercise has many health related benefits which reduce disease and improve your functional quality of life including:

  • Improving your lean muscle mass.
  • Reducing your blood pressure which reduces your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.
  • Improving your bone health to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improve your glucose tolerance and insulin resistance.
  • Increase the strength of your low back reducing lower back pain.
  • Providing beneficial effects on lowering your total cholesterol.

Below you will find 12 great lower body strengthening exercises to try. Have a chair handy for some of the standing exercises to help with balance.

Pick two or three to perform when you exercise during the week. Strengthening exercises for seniors should be done at least twice a week.

Three times per week is even better. So give some a try. Remember it takes 4 to 6 weeks for your body to become used to any new demands placed upon it.

Watch These Exercise Videos - Lower Body Strengthening Exercises

1. Ankle Circles

  • This exercise improves your ankle flexibility and ability to move your ankle upward and downward.
  • This is a great warm up exercise for the lower leg and feet.

2. Hip Marching

  • This exercise will strengthen your hip flexor and thighs.
  • With correct seated posture it will also help your abdominal muscles.

3. Knee Extension

  • Strengthening your knees width knee strengthening exercises will improve your ability to stand and balance.
  • This exercise will improve your available knee range of motion.

4. Calf Raises

  • Strengthening your calf muscles with calf exercises will give your more power to step forward on level surfaces or carry you up hills on uneven terrain.
  • Helps pump blood up from your legs to your upper-body and brain.

5. Standing Knee Flexion

  • These knee exercises strengthens your hamstring muscles.
  • Also helps with your standing balance.

6. Side Hip Raise

  • Safely strengthens your side hip muscles to help with hip arthritis.
  • Helps maintain your lower body endurance to better walk and side step around objects.

7.Sit to Stand

  • Excellent hip exercises to maintain your leg and hip strength.
  • One of the most important exercises used daily to keep your independence and confidence.

8. Heel Stand

  • Strengthens the front part of the lower leg with ankle stretches.
  • You will become better able to raise your toes to avoid tripping.

9. Lunges

  • To strengthen your quadriceps and hips with leg toning exercises.
  • Improve your ability to get out of a chair and balance.
  • Help you with lifting chores around the house.

10. Straight Leg Raise

  • To increase your quadriceps and hip flexor strength with this leg workout.
  • To strengthen your abdominal muscles.
  • Allow you to advance your leg during walking with greater ease.

11. Partial Squats

  • Increase your hip flexibility, quadriceps strength and hip flexor strength.
  • Improve your ability to get up from a chair and walk.
  • Steady your body for better balance and safety.

12. Hip Extension

  • This exercise will help with strengthening the hip joint and muscles.
  • This will improve the ability to walk and propel yourself forward or up stairs.


  1. Hello, I am 73 y/o. Have lower back pain with standing. COPD, high blood pressure. 5’6″ and 230 lbs. Can not walk more than 8 step without resting. How much should I walk a day to build up strength? Thank you. Sandy

  2. I have pain in me left knee for past 2-3 years. The area around the knee cap swells when the pain is acute and I cannot bend my leg then. I am 28 please help

  3. Hi. I just started a job where I have to wear steel toed boots and stand for 8 hours. After 2 weeks, I have finally got the right shoes for my feet but I’m still having foot, leg, and back pain. How can I strengthen these areas quickly with a morning routine as well. Btw, I’m 51 years old and overweight so any help would be appreciated. Thank you! Jill.

    1. Yes, standing jobs have their good points and bad points. Because sitting for long periods has been related to many health problems, many companies have optional standing desks. I would look more to frequent stretching during the day than focusing on strength. You will adapt to the standing routine in 4 to 6 weeks in terms of strength naturally by just standing and working. Focus on stretching your low back with forward and rotational stretches and your quads and hip flexors with standing or kneeling stretches during the day. Make sure you perform heel raises often during your work day every two hours to pump blood and lymph out of your legs. I would also stretch your upper back and shoulders every two hours preferably one that brings your scapula together. Good luck!

  4. Hi! I was scanning computer for last 2 days to find out exercises for strengthening leg and waist line. 77 years now active man a year ago now weakness of left leg, unable to get up from floor for I used to sit for hours together with folded legs on the floor, did yoga, etc. but since Jan 3 this year 2016 unable to lift my body and stand erect. What exercise can help to strengthen my legs, calf muscle, thigh muscle and stand and sit naturally. Pl guide me h k money canada

    1. You need my free fitness ebook which will give you a 4 week strengthening program.
      1. First, make sure you have Adobe reader on your computer. Most newer computers will have it already installed. You can download it at this address.


      2. Go to Eldergym.com and sign up for the fitness ebook in the right hand column.

      3. On the thank you page, click the download link and the ebook will automatically download to your browser which may take a minute or so before it appears on your screen.

      4. The ebook is now on your browser. You must now save it to your desktop. To do this, you must find the “save icon” either at the top left of the screen or (on the latest version of Adobe reader), it floats at the bottom of the page in the middle and appears when your cursor floats over it.

      5. Once you save it, it will be permanently on your computer in pdf. format and not on your browser anymore.

      6. Now you can view the ebook at any time

      Let me know if this helps.

    2. I need exerciseto help strengthen my legs (so I can stand for long periods of time), etc. I was sick for awhile and just sat.

      Please give me a program so I can continue wwith my life.

      1. You need to exercise along with my free ebook.
        1. First, make sure you have Adobe reader on your computer. Most newer computers will have it already installed. You can download it at this address.


        2.Go to http://www.eldergym.com and look on the right column for the ebook sign-up area. After you sign up for the ebook you will be taken to the download page where you can download the ebook.

        3.After you click the link to download the ebook , the ebook will automatically download to your browser which may take a minute or so before it appears on your screen.

        4.The ebook is now on your browser. You must now save it to your desktop. To do this, you must find the “save icon” either at the top left of the screen or (on the latest version of Adobe reader), it floats at the bottom of the page in the middle and appears when your cursor floats over it.

        5.Once you save it, it will be permanently on your computer in pdf. format and not on your browser anymore.

        6.Now you can view the ebook at any time. If you are using the weekly exercise program at the end of the ebook, simply click on the blue underlined titles on the left and it will open the correct page on your browser.

        Let me know if this helps.

        1. You are very generous to make this available. I fell again tonight, in the driveway, took 10 min to get up and oh am I going to have a shiner tomorrow. Turned 65 2 days ago. Time to get strong. Thank you.

  5. I had a muti-level spinal fusion “L2-S-1” lower body is very weak – before the surgery I was physically active & enjoyed a variety of work outs – i have lost a lot of muscle tone & strength & need some guidance in rebuilding so that I don’t over-do. I also have osteo arthritis & I’m being tested for RA – so inflammation is always an issue

    1. Yes, getting strong after back surgery is very important. Definitely start slowly and avoid any pain with exercise. Try to get into a walking program also. 10 to 20 minutes a day would be perfect. Hopefully you had a few weeks of Physical Therapy after your surgery to learn some strengthening exercises. All the back exercises on my website should be fine for your maintenance program. Good luck.

  6. I have had many, many operations on my left knee, resulting in a patellectomy without a replacement patella. I need some exercises to help strengthen whatever muscles are remaining, but I want to be able to walk my big dogs without fear of falling flat on my face because of lack of strength in my knee.

    1. Unsure of your fitness level or the ability of your leg, not to mention your overall health. Without a patella your quadriceps (thigh) muscle won’t operate the same way as a normal healthy knee. I will go on by assuming they fixed your quadriceps tendon to your shin bone and that you are otherwise healthy.

      Quad sets: with leg straight, tighten your thigh muscle, like you’re trying to show it off. It helps to think about it like you’re pushing the back of your knee into floor or bed, whatever you’re lying or sitting on. Hold the contraction for 6 to 10 seconds (real seconds, use a timer or clock).

      Straight leg raises: lie on your back, bend opposite knee and rest it’s foot on the floor/ bed, this protects your back. Lift your bad leg straight into the air. Keep your lifting leg locked into extension while you do this. If you can’t raise it up, try rolling up a sheet or using a dog leash wrapped around your foot and use your arms to help lift, but make sure your leg does as much work as possible. If your arms have to do all the work, skip this one.

      Short arc quad: lie down or sit with legs extended out in front of you. Put a firm pillow under your bad knee, or a rolled up towel. Let your knee bend, if possible, to about 15-20 degrees. Kick at your knee, straightening it. Can use a LIGHT weight, 1-5 lbs depending on what you can tolerate. Skip if painful. Avoid bending knee too much especially if using weights.

      Straight leg raise, abduction: lie on your side. Lift your leg into the air sideways as far as you can. Keep your leg aligned with your body. You should feel the side of your hip doing work. Keep knee straight while lifting. This exercise is important because the muscle that does some of the lift (your tensor fascia latae muscle, or TFL) has a tendon that travels all the way down the outside of your leg and inserts on your lower leg past the knee joint on the outside of your shin, and aids in the stability of your knee as well as your balance.

      Knee flexion: standing, bend your knee as tolerated. Can place a light weight on your ankle. The hamstring muscle does the work here, and also helps keep the knee stable during walking.

      Back kick: standing, keep knee extended or bent, and kick your thigh backwards as far as possible to strengthen your gluteals. Do both legs, you don’t want uneven glutes :), and using your bad leg to hold you up while you do the other leg can help increase the stability of the bad one. Can use a light ankle weight.

      Clamshells and thigh squeezes: if you can tolerate your knee bending, use an exercise band wrapped around your legs while you lie on your back with both knees bent with feet resting on the bed. You may have to try different resistance bands to find what’s right for you. Tighten the band together while your thighs are together, then spread your thighs while your knees stay together. For the thigh squeeze, you can squeeze a firm pillow between your knees or get a thigh-master type exercise device. These exercise help strengthen your adductor/abductor muscles and hip rotator muscles, which research shows also helps in stabilizing the knee secondarily through hip stability.

      All above exercises you should start slow, with low resistance if any. Let your muscles get tired at about 12-15 repetitions, and 1 to 2 sets with a short rest between sets. If you are sore the next day, take a rest that day. Shoot for 3x a week and build up to 4x a week, or every other day.

      If you want to get better and safer at walking, walking itself can be a great exercise, if it’s safe for you to do that. Walk at a brisk pace you can tolerate for 5-10 minutes at least, building up to 15 min walks.

      Do balance exercises: plenty of them online for beginners. Just be careful and always do in a safe environment. Next to your bed or near a countertop that you can safely hold onto. Use slip-resistant shoes. Will improve your balance, and help stabilize your core, hips, and legs.

      Strengthen your core: crunches for example. Many of these are also available online. A stronger core makes you less likely to lose your balance and more stable in standing and during walking.

      Obviously, if you experience a lot of pain you should stop. Also, before beginning ANY new exercise program you should consult your primary physician to find out if exercise is appropriate with you. The best thing to do is get a Physical Therapy consult, as they are trained to strengthen a variety of different patient types with all kinds of deficits. I strongly repeat, check with your doctor first! No matter what your age, and even if you have health problems, regular exercise will improve your strength, activity tolerance, and overall quality of life! Best wishes.

      Matt, Physical Therapist Assistant

  7. Had knee surgery and lower back is in a lot of pain, after 15ins of standing. what exercises do I need to use to get the back in order to stand more that 15mins.

  8. I have had 7 spinal surgeries and a collapsed lung surgery. COPD general anxiety disorder high blood pressure only one kidney a day too weak to walk or stand depressed obviously I just want to get better and going to be 60 years old on May 4th. Any suggestions on where to begin. I bought a Proform hybrid trainer. Thank you.

    1. Yes, you need to begin VERY slowly and gradually increase your activity level. Definitely start on your new purchase, but take it slowly. Try a few minutes to start, then work to a longer time. Just add a little bit more time as you can tolerate. Keep at it every day, not too much in the beginning.

  9. I had serious spinal surgery just over a year ago leaving me quite helpless to do much of anything. Although I have received a lot of physiotherapy during this period, it was mostly on my back but very little on my legs. I am 74 years old and was always known for my extreme fitness. I work diligently at the few exercises I have been given but my improvement seems very slow especially walking and climbing the stairs. My legs are painfully thin with the muscles in my calf virtually non existent making walking an ordeal. Could you suggest please some strength exercises that I can perform. I appreciate it. Thankyou

  10. I am so pleased to have found this………lately I have had a lot of touble going upstairs, I have replaced knees, but they have been checked and everything is fine. My right leg has always been weaker than my right.

    1. You are welcome. Remember to start slowly at first and gradually build up your leg strength. 2 -3 times a week is a good goal to begin with.

  11. I had right hip replacement last year. I went from a walker to a cane. now almost a year later I can get rid of the cane but now my left leg doesnt seem to want to work. any ideas?

    1. Certainly check in with your surgeon first. It it is fine, then work on leg strengthening exercises like the ones on this page, at least twice a week. You should be able to tell after about 6 weeks if they are helping.

  12. I am trying to recovery from brain surgery and regain my strength. These exercises are great for achieving this goal while maintaining the security of sitting or holding on to a chair.

  13. Thanks for these videos, I have moderate to severe RA and it affects my whole lower body more that the upper body. These exercises have helped with my hip and knee weakness so that I don’t stumble and fall any more!

    1. Please consider putting half a teaspoon of turmeric in a cup of water to help reduce the inflammation that the RA causes…helps with pain and helps get rid of RA.

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