Muscle weakness, particularly in the legs can limit capacity to perform activities of daily living and increase the risk of falls in older adults. Muscle strength is a key component of balance and is required to safely perform tasks like getting up from a chair, climbing stairs and remaining upright when knocked off-balance.
Leg strengthening exercises can prevent falls in older adults living in the community. Regular physical activity and exercise plays an important role in maintaining and increasing the size, strength and capacity of muscles. It can also strengthen bones and reduce the rate of bone density loss in older adults.
The Stay On Your Feet® Strengthen Your Legs exercise flyer contains basic leg strengthening exercises older adults can do in their own home.
Exercise programs aimed at increasing the muscle strength of older adults should involve moderate-intensity resistance training. As good balance is also important for preventing falls, balance exercises should always be included within strength exercise programs. These balance exercises are more effective if performed in weight-bearing positions. Endurance exercises such as walking or aerobics are also effective for improving general fitness, however these exercises are always recommended in conjunction with strength and balance exercises to reduce the risk of falling.
The benefits of exercise for bone health
Regular physical activity and exercise can reduce bone density loss in older adults. Protecting bone density can reduce the risk of falling and reduce the likelihood of suffering a fracture if a fall does occur. Bones can become stronger when impact or extra strain is placed on them.
Exercises that are excellent for improving the bone strength of older adults include:
- Weight bearing exercise (exercise performed on your feet) such as walking, jogging, tennis, dancing or aerobics
- Progressive resistance training (becomes more challenging over time) such as lifting weights or using gym equipment