There are many benefits of engaging in regular physical activity as we age. Exercise and physical activity can promote independent living, reduce the risk of disease and injury from falling, and help prevent and reverse muscle atrophy. Our legs support our bodies when we stand, walk, and move, so building leg strength is vital to promoting our overall physical health as we age.
Here are four easy exercises that promote leg strength that you can do from your own home!
1. Chair Squats
To perform this exercise, you need a chair, couch, or bed to sit on. Sitting down, place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and lift yourself into a standing position. Make sure you are only using your leg muscles and not pushing with your arms. Slowly lower yourself back down into a sitting position and repeat. You’ll feel this exercise in your gluteal muscles and your thigh muscles.
Breathe in as you lower yourself back down and breathe out when you push yourself back up. It is important to perform this exercise slowly, so you can control your movements and get a more intense strength exercise. The goal is not to perform chair squats quickly, but to perform them with steady slow movements.
You can scale this exercise up by performing them without the chair. To do a squat without a chair, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly squat into a sitting position and lift yourself back up with your legs. Some things to remember while doing chair-less squats:
Keep your weight on your heels! If you put your weight on your toes, you can lean forward and lose your balance
Only go as deep as you feel comfortable doing. The goal of a squat is to get your buttocks lower than your knees, but this is an advanced step. Start slow, and only go as low as is comfortable for you.
- Control your movements. The goal of a squat is to go slowly and control your movements. While you can work up to speed, focus on form and strength at first!
2. Calf Raises
Calf raises target your calf muscles, which are located in your lower leg. To perform this exercise, stand shoulder-width apart and find a wall or counter to hold onto. Raise your heels off the ground as high as possible, so you’re standing on your tippy toes and hold this position for five seconds. Lower your heels back down to the floor and repeat five times.
You can scale this exercise up by standing on a step, phone book, or other raised surface. Be sure that you have something to hold onto while performing this version too. Move your feet to the very edge of the surface, so your heels are hanging off the platform and only your toes and tops of your feet are on it. Perform calf raises just like the first time, but this time you can extend your heels down lower to get a deeper workout!
3. Ankle Circles
Our ankles are a large supporter of our legs, so it’s important to build muscle here as well! Ankle circles promote mobility in your ankles and target strength to support your legs and body. You can perform ankle circles while sitting or standing. If you choose to stand, make sure you have something to hold on to, such as a chair, table, or countertop.
Lift your right leg off the floor. You can either bend your knee behind you or extend your leg out in front of you. Rotate your ankle in clockwise circles five times, switching to counterclockwise for another five times. Place your right leg back down and lift your left leg, repeating clockwise and counterclockwise for a total of ten times.
You can perform this exercise three times and repeat it throughout your exercise routine as needed!
Lunges target your glute muscles as well as your thigh muscles and are a great exercise to build leg strength! To do a lunge, stand up straight with your feet together and step forward with one foot. As you step, let your body move forward and bend down in a lunge position. (For a reference, it will look like you’re kneeling on one knee, but your knee shouldn’t touch the ground.)
Return to a standing position (bring your leg back so your feet are together again) and repeat with the opposite leg. While performing lunges, make sure your back remains straight and your knee doesn’t move more forward than your toes, as this could make you lose balance or strain your knee. Repeat six to eight times on each leg if you’re able.
To scale this exercise up, you can incorporate dumbbells into your lunge. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and perform the lunge as usual. When choosing which weight to grab, make sure it’s light enough that you can do at least six lunges on each leg, but heavy enough to be a challenge.
Other Tips To Promote Leg Strength
In addition to these exercises, here are a few tips on how to increase leg muscle function and strength!
Drink Plenty of Water
Our bodies need at least six glasses of water per day. If you are not getting enough water, you may be dehydrated, and your body may be unable to synthesize muscle and carry out the metabolic processes it needs to in order to build your strength.
Make sure you drink one glass of water with each meal, and one glass of water in between each meal. If you forget to drink water throughout the day, carry a water bottle with you as a reminder. You can even make a drinking schedule to help you keep track of how much you need throughout the day.
Take Calcium Supplements and Vitamin D
Calcium is responsible for building our bones and teeth and keeping them strong. Aside from drinking milk and eating calcium rich foods, calcium supplements may help meet your calcium needs. Similarly, vitamin D is a vitamin responsible for regulating the synthesis and release of calcium in the blood and thus promotes bone strength.
Taking two of our gummy multivitamins each day is a great way to get the amount of vitamin D your body needs. And, they’re a delicious way to promote your health and wellness!
Talk to your doctor about whether a calcium or vitamin D supplement is right for you.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Wearing uncomfortable shoes can cause us to walk less and move less, especially if they cause blisters or sores. Investing in comfortable shoes can encourage you to move more and keep your feet healthy. It’s also important to find shoes that offer support during exercise, so you stay comfortable during and minimize pain after.
One of the best exercises to perform to increase leg muscle strength is walking. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, and other forms of aerobic exercise are great ways to promote your muscle strength and help your legs stay strong as you age.
It’s recommended to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week for adults over 65. Incorporating these 6 leg strength exercises into your normal exercise routine is a great way to get the exercise you need!
Benefits of Building Leg Strength
Our legs support our whole bodies as we stand up, walk around, and move. So, by strengthening our leg muscles, we can improve our overall movement and strength! When we increase muscle, it also decreases pressure on our joints.
In addition, building muscle and exercising our legs can increase our range of movement! There is a world of resources to increasing mobility and preventing mobility decline.
Learn more about how to handle declining mobility here!
Another benefit of building leg muscle is that it decreases the risk of falling. Being afraid of falling in your home can cause physical and mental strain. This fear can also get in the way of your life and the things you love to do. By building leg muscle, you can drastically reduce your risk of falling and stay safe in your home.
There are other resources that can help you prioritize safety in your home.
Learn more about how to prioritize your safety and reduce your risk of falling!
As we get older, we become more susceptible to muscle loss. But we don’t have to let this muscle loss rule our lives. In fact, with these leg strengthening exercises, you can make your legs stronger than ever and pursue all the activities you love to do with more confidence and strength.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or a physical trainer to help you do these exercises. And remember, results may take a little while to see. Be patient as you wait to see results. Physical exercise will not only be great for your leg muscles, but it will help your body stay healthy and active!