6 Leg Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

An active lifestyle with regular exercise is still easily achievable for those in their 60s and beyond.

Maintaining strong muscles has everyday benefits such as improving balance, reducing falls, boosting your mood —as well as enhancing your aesthetic.

Andy Reay, Head of Strength and Conditioning at Pure Sports Medicine, told Newsweek:

"[Other] benefits include stronger bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. It will also improve blood flow during the exercise, which will help to carry waste products from the body, as well as improve the health of your heart and lungs."

However, certain movements may need to be adapted for the best results.

Here are the best leg strengthening exercises for seniors to try, according physios and industry experts.

Types of Exercise for Seniors

James Turgis, physiotherapist and director at Excellence Physiotherapy in London, told Newsweek that mindful and regular exercise will bolster leg strength.

"Older people can definitely regain good leg strength if they do regular strengthening exercises and increase the intensity of their exercises in a slow and safe way. But also exercises must be adapted to their condition to be efficient," he said.

Everyday, simple activities can help keep leg muscles active and exercised, Turgis added, and can be a good starting point.

"Regular exercise, regular walks and climbing stairs can help, but it is important that they start gradually in order to avoid any injuries from occurring. Bones, muscles and joints are fragile at that age, if you overdo it too quickly, your body might not have time to adapt."

For those looking for more mindful workout exercises to keep their legs in shape, there are also plenty of achievable exercises.

Andy Reay said: "The key to strengthening the legs is to give them enough of a challenge. The body responds and grows in response to a stimulus or stress, it is therefore a balance of finding a big enough stimulus to challenge the body without overdoing it."

Woman squats
A woman performs a squat. Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

Leg Strengthening Exercises For Seniors

Squats

Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and drop your core, lowering your butt towards the ground.

As you bend down, try not to go lower than 90 degrees. Put equal weight through both legs as you go down, stand back up and repeat the exercise again.

If you struggle with balance, you can hold onto the back of a chair as you perform the squat.

Standing Side Leg Raise

Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, place a chair in front of you and hold onto the back of it for support.

Inhale and lift one of your legs outwards, towards the side. Keep your foot at a right angle and your toes pointing forward. Raise your leg as high as is comfortable before returning to the starting position, exhaling on your way down.

Alternate legs and repeat the exercise.

Leg Raises

Place a mat on the ground and lie on your back, ensure that your lower back is resting properly on the ground. Keep one leg outstretched and the other bent with its foot on the floor.

Also keep your palms flat on the floor. Inhale and slowly raise your outstretched leg to the height of the opposite knee and hold the position for 10 seconds. Exhale as you return to the starting position.

Alternate legs and repeat the exercise.

Calf Raises

It's also important to exercise your calves as they help with balance and walking and calf raises are a great way to strengthen the muscle.

Stand behind a chair and hold the back of it for support. Keep your back straight, inhale and stand on your tip-toes as high as is comfortable. Keep the rest of your body as still as possible.

Exhale as you return to the starting position and repeat the exercise again.

ladies lunge
A group of senior women perform lunges. yacobchuk/Getty Images

Lunges

Lunges are a great workout to strengthen your quadriceps and hips. Stand up straight and keep your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips.

As you exhale, take a large step forward with one foot while keeping your body straight and your other foot planted on the ground.

Inhale as you return to the starting position. Alternate legs and repeat the exercise.

Step-Ups

This exercise will ease climbing stairs and help build your quads and glutes.

Stand at the bottom of the stairs or a few steps, hold onto the handrail for support and balance.

Step up with one foot, planting it fully on the step in front of you, then follow with the next foot to fully climb the single step.

Step back with your first foot and then the second to return to your starting position.

old couple does some lunges
An old couple performs some stretches in the park. Sanja Radin/Getty Images

Why These Exercise Work

These leg strengthening exercises for seniors are manageable for most as they are risk free, according to Turgis.

"There is virtually no risk for seniors exercising their legs if they don't have any underlying conditions and start exercising with a physio until they are independent in their exercises.

"There are no leg exercises that seniors should avoid doing as long as the intensity is reasonable and adapted to their condition so they don't injure themselves."

However, he stressed the importance of first having a physio assessment before carrying out any of the movements, as underlying conditions or prior operations could limit the type of activities available.

For example, "It is forbidden for someone with a hip replacement to do a leg raise, as that could dislocate their hip. That's one of the reasons why a physio assessment is necessary," he advised.

Nonetheless, both experts emphasize the clear benefits of regular, manageable exercise for seniors.

"All the above is really important as it keeps seniors autonomous and independent for the longest time possible, which helps them stay social with others and not damage their mental health which is the key factor for a long life," Turgis said.