Modern medicine and better nutrition mean we are enjoying longer lives than ever before. But as we enter the later stages of life, we know how important it is to anticipate the challenges of ageing. While we want to relish the many years ahead of us, everyday aches and pains, as well as increasing issues with mobility, can make life more burdensome.
An AARP survey has found that 88% of those 65 and older would like to stay in their homes as long as possible, and there are many ways you can savour a long and happy life at home. From creating an accessible bathroom by installing a walk-in shower or walk-in bath, to adopting some simple habits, you can keep yourself safe, strong and independent.
If you want to keep your body strong and mobile, try out our favourite leg exercises for the elderly:
Before we start, we recommend wearing loose and comfortable clothing and keeping a water bottle to hand.
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Sitting Leg Exercises for the Elderly
If you’ve not done much physical exercise for a while, or struggle with your balance, why not try these brilliantly simple leg strengthening exercises that can be performed from your chair:
Before you start, choose a chair without arms if you can, and make sure it is stable and solid. Your feet should be able to sit flat and securely on the floor, with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Stand Up, Sit Down
This simple exercise can be a great way to relieve stiffness and strengthen the surrounding tissue of your knee joints.
Step 1: Sit on the edge of your chair, with your hands resting on the seat, feet hip-width apart, and begin to learn forwards very slightly.
Step 2: Before you slowly stand up, keep your eyes forward and plant your feet firmly into the floor.
Step 3: Use your legs to stand upright, before slowly sitting back down.
You can aim for about 5 repetitions here, and the slower you go the better as it will make your legs work harder.
- Seated Marches
For those who want to improve their hip mobility and cardiovascular strength.
Step 1: Sit tall with your shoulders resting against the back of a chair and your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Hold the edges of the chair and tighten your stomach muscles.
Step 3: Lift your left leg as high as you comfortably can whilst keeping your knee bent and your foot flexed. Return your foot back to the floor while lifting your right leg.
Repeat 20 marches alternating each leg. Once completed, take a break and repeat 2-4 more times. Continue for more than 20 marches if you want to increase your heart rate further and challenge your cardiovascular system.
- Seated Leg Extensions
This exercise will really help to strengthen the muscles around your knees, improving your stability and supporting your knee joints.
Step 1: Sit up tall with your back straight and eyes facing forwards.
Step 2: Hold the edge of your seat while you slowly extend your left leg out in front of you (bending from your knee, not your hip). Only lift your left foot up as far as is comfortable while keeping the back of your left thigh on the seat.
Step 3: Lower your left toes back to the ground before repeating the extension 5 more times.
Once you have completed 5 repetitions, repeat this exercise with your right leg. This is best performed slowly, concentrating on flexing your thigh muscles.
Standing Leg Exercises for the Elderly
- Chair squats
This is a great exercise for keeping yourself mobile and boosting your coordination.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of the chair for stability, with your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Bend your knees as far as is comfortable, aiming to get your knees in line with your toes.
Step 3: Slowly stand back up before repeating.
When you perform this movement try and be mindful to keep your knees in line with your feet as your knees will likely want to drop into your midline.
- Sideways Leg Lift
This exercise will help strengthen the muscles surrounding your hips, helping to improve your coordination and stability.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of the chair with your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Keeping your toes facing forward, lift your left leg out to the side, as much as is comfortable to do so.
Step 3: Slowly return your left foot to the starting position, the slower the better.
Repeat this movement five times before switching to your right leg.
- Leg Extension
This is a great exercise to improve your balance and strengthen your glutes.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of a chair with your feet at hip-width apart and toes facing forwards.
Step 2: Keep your foot flexed and your eyes facing forwards as you lift your left leg back as far as is comfortable while maintaining an upright posture.
Step 3: Hold this for 5 seconds, making sure not to arch your back. You should feel tension in your buttocks as this is the muscle that should be doing all the work.
You can repeat this 5 times for the left leg before switching to the right.
- Calf Raises
This movement will help to strengthen your calf muscles while improving your balance.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of a chair to maintain your stability.
Step 2: Lift both heels off the floor as far as is comfortable and hold for 5 seconds
Step 3: Return your heels to the floor in a slow and controlled manner to get the most from this exercise.
To get the most out of these exercises we recommend practising twice a week. This will help you improve your strength, balance and coordination. You can build yourself up slowly, starting with smaller repetitions, and increasing them over time. It is also a good idea to get the all-clear from your GP before starting any new fitness routine.