12 Essential Lower-Body Exercises for Your 50s, 60s, 70s and Beyond

Squats are one of the best leg exercises for seniors. They can help keep your hips and back strong and pain-free as you age.
Image Credit: Sneksy/E+/GettyImages

Who wants to spend hours on a task when 20 minutes can get the job done, and better? In the office and in the gym, you want to work smarter, not harder — and that includes during your lower-body workouts.

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Building a strong lower-body is crucial for all ages, especially if you want to walk, run or bend over pain-free. (And who doesn't, right?) But different age groups have different workout needs, which is where training smart comes in handy.

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Case in point: For every year after age 30, people lose between 3 and 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade, according to Harvard Health Publishing. So, when you're in your 50s, 60s and 70s, using your leg exercises to maintaining strength and improve balance should be high on your priority list.

During your next leg workout, mix in some of these essential leg-strengthening exercises for your age group.

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The 4 Best Lower-Body Exercises for Your 50s

In their 50s, many people start to notice declines in their general strength, balance and mobility, according to Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS, a Washington-based physical therapist.

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Around this time, many women also go through menopause, which can increase muscle loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. Weighted resistance and single-leg (unilateral) exercises help counteract these effects, she says.

Move 1: Weighted Goblet Squat

Move 1: Weighted Goblet Squat
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs", "Shoulders", "Abs" ]
  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell by one end at chest-height.
  2. Stand with your feet just wider than hip-distance apart. (Your toes can face forward or turn out slightly.)
  3. Keeping your chest tall and core tight, push your hips back and down to sink into a squat so your upper legs are parallel with the floor, or as far as comfortable.
  4. Press through all four corners of your feet to return to standing.

Tip

If you don't have a weight available or just want to master your form before cranking up the intensity, you can do this move without a dumbbell or kettlebell. Clasp your hands in front of your chest.

Move 2: Alternating Reverse Lunge

Move 2: Alternating Reverse Lunge
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Take a large step backward with one leg
  3. Lower down into a lunge until both knees are bent at 90 degrees, or as far as comfortable. Your back knee should not touch the floor.
  4. Press through your front heel as you step forward to return to standing.
  5. Repeat, this time stepping backward with your other leg.

Move 3: Single-Leg Balance

Move 3: Single-Leg Balance
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Mobility Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Put your weight into one foot, rooting it into the ground.
  3. Bend your other knee to raise that just foot off the ground.
  4. Stand here, balancing on your right leg for 30 seconds to a minute.
  5. Switch sides.

Tip

For a challenge, try shutting your eyes for a few moments, Garcia says. If you need a little extra help, try to focus on one non-moving object in the room or use a chair for extra balance.

Move 4: Single-Leg Heel Raise

Move 4: Single-Leg Heel Raise
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Root one foot into the ground.
  3. Bend your other knee and raise your foot a few inches off the ground.
  4. Come up onto the balls of your planted foot.
  5. Pause on your toes for a moment, then bring your heel back onto the ground.
  6. After you complete all your reps here, switch sides.

The 4 Best Lower-Body Exercises for Your 60s

In your 60s, you might notice more extreme muscle loss, aka sarcopenia, Garcia says. While sarcopenia is totally natural, it isn't healthy and can increase your risk of injury and trouble doing everyday tasks.

Exercising with tools like a box or bench offer a little support if you need it, while still helping you build your strength and balance.

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Move 1: Box Squat

Move 1: Box Squat
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Legs", "Butt", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart with a bench or box behind you.
  2. Slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to squat down. Focus on lowering your body as if you were going to sit on a chair.
  3. Squat down until your butt taps the box, or as low as you can go comfortably while maintaining good form.
  4. Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat.
  5. On an exhale, reverse the motion by pressing through your heels to return to standing.

Move 2: Single-Leg Balance With Wall Support

Move 2: Single-Leg Balance With Wall Support
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Legs", "Butt", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand in front of a wall with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your palms onto the wall for balance.
  3. Put your weight into your right foot, rooting it into the ground.
  4. Bend your left knee and raise your left foot off the ground.
  5. Stand here, balancing on your right leg for 30 seconds to a minute.
  6. Switch sides.

Move 3: Step-Up March

Move 3: Step-Up March
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand in front of a low bench or box.
  2. Leading with your left leg, step up onto the bench.
  3. As you come up onto the top, carefully drive your right knee up towards your chest.
  4. Bring your right foot down onto the top of the box.
  5. Leading with your left leg, step back down onto the ground.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Tip

If driving your knee makes it hard to balance, take that portion out of this exercise and just stick with the step-up, Garcia says.

Move 4: Double-Leg Heel Raise

Move 4: Double-Leg Heel Raise
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Legs", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart with your hands on your hips.
  2. Put your weight into the balls of your feet.
  3. Raise your heels up as high as is comfortable.
  4. Pause here for a breath.
  5. Lower back to the ground.

The 4 Best Lower-Body Exercises for Your 70s and Beyond

According to Garcia, the number-one goal in your 70s (and beyond) is preventing falls by maintaining muscle strength. You want exercises that challenge and build your balance and lower-body strength, while prioritizing safety. So movements with extra support are the best way to go.

These leg exercises for seniors move at a steady pace. As you begin to fatigue, take time to rest and drink water. And if any of these feel too strenuous or painful, skip the exercise, she says.

Move 1: Chair Sit to Stand

Move 1: Chair Sit to Stand
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs", "Abs" ]
  1. Stand in front of a chair.
  2. Slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to squat down.
  3. Squat down until you're seated in the chair.
  4. Pause for a moment at the bottom.
  5. On an exhale, reverse the motion by pressing through your heels to return to standing.

Tip

You don't need to rush as you stand back up out of the chair. Feel free to pause for several moments in the seat before you stand back up.

Move 2: Step-Up With Support

Move 2: Step-Up With Support
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Abs", "Butt", "Legs" ]
  1. Stand in front of a staircase with a railing. You can set up a box next to a counter if you don't have stairs in your home.
  2. Place one hand on the railing for balance.
  3. Leading with your right leg, step up onto the first step.
  4. Raise your left leg up to meet the right.
  5. With your right leg first, step back onto the ground, followed by your left.
  6. Repeat this motion alternating your leading leg.

Move 3: Counter-Support Balance

Move 3: Counter-Support Balance
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Legs", "Abs", "Butt" ]
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart in front of a kitchen counter or the back of a chair.
  2. Place your hands on the counter or chair for balance.
  3. Root one foot into the ground.
  4. Bend your other knee and raise that foot a few inches off the ground (or as high as is comfortable).
  5. Pause here for a few moments and bring your foot back to the ground.
  6. Switch sides.

Move 4: Counter-Support Heel Raise

Move 4: Counter-Support Heel Raise
Image Credit: Sam Chan, DPT/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Abs", "Legs" ]
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart in front of a kitchen counter or the back of a chair.
  2. Place your hands on the counter or chair for balance.
  3. Come up onto the balls of your feet, raising your heels an inch or several off the floor.
  4. Pause here for a breath.
  5. Lower back to the ground.

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