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Leg Strengthening Exercises for the Elderly

by
author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
Leg Strengthening Exercises for the Elderly
Leg Strengthening Exercises for the Elderly Photo Credit jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

Without strong legs, it's difficult to engage in everyday activities such as getting in and out of chair, walking around the neighborhood and chasing after your grandkids. Leg-strengthening exercises don't require special equipment — you can exercise in your living room while you watch your favorite show.

As with any new activity, check with your doctor to make sure leg exercises are safe for you.

Read More: Exercises for Senior Citizens

Chair Exercises

If you're new to leg-strengthening moves, start with chair exercises. Sitting down relieves some pressure on your legs and, if you have balance issues, chair exercises might be the safest alternative for you.

For each of the following exercises, sit up straight on a firm chair and perform 10 repetitions on each leg. Hold each finish position for 1 to 2 seconds, then lower back down to the start position. Work up to three sets of 10 repetitions in a row.

  • Marches: Lift one knee up toward the ceiling as far as possible without leaning backward. This movement works the muscles at the front of your hips. 
  • Kick-outs: Straighten one knee all the way and contract the muscles on the front of your thigh. 
  • Toe raises: Keeping your heels on the ground, lift your toes up toward the ceiling. You should feel the muscles on the front of your shins tighten. 
  • Heel raises: Press your toes down into the ground and lift your heels. This movement will tighten the muscles on the back of your calves. 
Add stretches to your strengthening program to improve flexibility.
Add stretches to your strengthening program to improve flexibility. Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/GettyImages

Standing Exercises

Standing exercises challenge your muscles by adding bodyweight to the movements. Stand next to a wall or other sturdy surface if you have concerns about your balance.

For each of the following, stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and perform the movements 10 times on each leg, working up to three sets in a row. Hold each finish position for 1 to 2 seconds before lowering back down.

  • Four-way leg lifts: Lift your leg straight out in front of you as far as possible, keeping your knee straight throughout each movement. Don't allow your upper body to lean. Repeat this exercise lifting your leg out to the side, backward and across midline, in front of your opposite leg.
  • Marches: Lift one knee at a time until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Alternate legs each time, as if you are marching in place.
  • Hamstring curls: Bend one knee and try to touch your buttocks with your heel. Don't allow your upper body to bend forward during this movement. 
  • Heel and toes raises: Raise up on your heels, lifting your toes up toward the ceiling. Then perform the opposite movement by lifting up on your toes. Make this exercise harder by doing them on on leg at a time. 
  • Mini-Squats: Bend forward at your hips and push your butt backward as if you are going to sit in a chair. Bend your knees and slowly lower yourself down. Stop before your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds, then stand back up. Avoid this exercise if you have knee issues. 

Read more: Elderly Exercise Plans

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