4 Steps for Improving Leg Strength & Balance
In recognition of this year’s Active Aging Week (Sept. 27 – Oct. 4), we’re sharing the following exercises that address two key components of successful aging.
Falls and fall-related injuries are unfortunately more common among older adults as a variety of age-related changes happen to our bodies. The fear of falling can lead some to limit their social interactions outside the home, decrease physical activity and, in turn, lose even more agility, strength and balance. Experiencing a fall can be a major cause of disability, loss of independence and pain.
As the Director of Wellness at Asbury Solomons, a retirement community in Calvert County, Md., I work with people on a daily basis who regularly practice balance exercises and work on building leg strength. It is very possible to improve your balance, mobility and, often, confidence. The following are some exercises Asbury’s wellness teams practice with residents living in our retirement communities. Remember to try these with a sturdy chair or some other support nearby.
Seated Leg Extensions (Complete 2 – 3 sets of 3 with each leg.)
- Sit in a chair with your back supported and cross your ankles.
- Using the leg on the bottom, lift up and extend both legs.
- The top leg will provide the resistance. The bottom leg will complete a “low arc” motion and do most of the work.
- Repeat about 10 – 15 repetitions.
- Switch legs. Repeat.
Shifting Balance (Repeat 3 – 5 times in each direction.)
- Stand with legs about shoulder width apart and one hand on or just above a sturdy, stable chair or other hand hold.
- Shift your weight (don’t bend at your waist) forward and backward slowly.
- Now proceed to shift weight in a clockwise fashion from right toes to right heel to left heel to left toes.
- Repeat. Switch direction.
5 Stage Tandem Series (Repeat 3 to 5 times – hold each stage for 5 to 10 seconds.)
- Put both feet together side by side.
- Take a small step forward with your right leg. Hold.
- Move your right foot in front of your left as if walking a tight rope. Hold.
- Bring feet together again and take small step backwards with right foot. Hold.
- Move your right foot behind your left as if walking a tight rope. Hold.
- Repeat all steps with left leg.
Single Leg Stance (Repeat 3 to 5 times.)
- Focus on a point on the wall.
- Lift one foot off the ground forward, backward or sideways. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat with other foot.