Poor leg strength can limit older adult’s capacity to perform their activities of daily living, and increases their risk of falling. 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 help to prevent falls in older adults living in the community. Regular exercise plays an important role in maintaining and increasing the size, strength, and capacity of muscles.
The Stay On Your Feet® Strengthen Your Legs exercise flyer contains basic leg strengthening exercises that 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 in strength exercise programs. These balance exercises are more effective if performed in weight-bearing positions (i.e. standing). Endurance exercises such as walking and aerobics are 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 help to maintain bone density in older adults. Protecting bone density can reduce falls risk and reduce the likelihood of fracturing a bone if a fall does occur. Bones can become stronger when impact or extra strain is placed on them.
Exercises that are excellent for improving bone strength in older adults include:
- Weight bearing exercise (exercise performed on the feet) such as walking, jogging, tennis, dancing and aerobics
- Progressive resistance training (training which becomes more challenging over time) such as lifting weights or using gym equipment