After the age of 40, muscle mass and strength in people will begin to deteriorate. As a consequence, the capability to engage in physical exercise becomes less and less. After the age of 50, the decline in strength and muscle mass rises to 15% per decade. Muscles will atrophy and grow weaker and smaller when not used, which creates a vicious cycle of age reducing muscles which then causes the person to do less activity, which reduces them further. In the elderly, the leading cause of this problem is sarcopenia, which is the involuntary loss of muscle mass and bone density due to age.
Not all hope is lost, of course, and it is possible for seniors to remain fit and healthy and physically active no matter their age. The most effective method for minimizing the issue is regular physical activity, particularly strength training. The following paragraphs will list a variety of leg strengthening exercises that seniors of all physical ability can do, and best of all can be done at home.
Ankle circles are an excellent and basic exercise that can be done to warm up the lower extremities. Good ankle flexibility is essential for maintaining balance, stability, and mobility. Strong ankles will allow you to keep control and while walking, aiding you in stopping and changing direction and navigating uneven terrain. They also assist in keeping an upright posture and supporting your center of gravity, helping to prevent falls. Ankle circles are easily done, and can be done in a seated position. It is advisable to perform them periodically when seated for a long period of time, to help maintain and encourage good circulation.
- Maintain an upright position in a chair
- Place one foot flat on the floor, and raise the knee of the other leg, and then trace a circle with the foot twenty times in one direction, and then twenty times in the other direction.
- Switch your foot and repeat.
- Try the exercise while standing to increase difficulty. Standing ankle circles will improve your balance. Make sure to have something nearby to grab hold of in case your balance fails.
Hip marching is a workout that will focus on your thighs and hip flexors. This will allow you to walk longer distances, and at greater speeds. You’ll also be able to lift your feet higher, which will help you to avoid tripping over obstacles or uneven ground. The difficulty of this workout can be increased by adding ankle weights of a weight that you are comfortable with.
- Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor
- Inhale as you raise one knee as high as possible into the air, and exhale as you slowly lower it back down to the ground
- Perform this motion ten times and then switch knees
Standing knee flexion will target the hamstrings and improve your standing and walking abilities.
- Grasp the back of a chair for balance
- Lift your foot behind you while bending your knee, kicking it back as far as you are able
- Perform this motion ten times, then switch feet.