Written by James Fleming
Muscle loss and a lack of strength are common complaints among senior citizens. In fact, 5-13 percent of seniors aged 60-70 and 11-50 percent of seniors aged 80 and up suffer from muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia.
Some seniors make the mistake of assuming muscle loss is normal. Not only is it not the norm, but it also can seriously hinder a senior’s quality of life and leave them susceptible to all kinds of injuries.
Lower body strength is especially important for older adults who want to maintain their independence as they age.
Read on to learn more about the importance of lower body strength for seniors, what they can do to improve their strength, and how they can maintain the strength that they currently have.
Why Lower Body Strength Matters
Strengthening the muscles in the lower body helps improve bone strength and density in older adults. This is especially important for older women, who are more prone to a loss of bone density after menopause.
Strengthening the lower body also helps improve balance and stamina. This, in turn, decreases the risk of experiencing hip and knee injuries. It also decreases the risk of falling, which is the leading cause of fatal injury among senior citizens.
A strong lower body also makes it easier for seniors to live independently and perform daily functions like walking, standing up from a chair or bed, and climbing the stairs.
What Seniors Can Do to Build and Maintain Lower Body Strength
As you can see, lower body strength matters a great deal for senior citizens who want to enjoy a high quality of life. Listed below are three of the best exercises for seniors who need to strengthen their lower body:
Sit to Stand
One goal all seniors can work toward is being able to stand up from a chair or bed without assistance. In fact, this skill is correlated with a longer lifespan!
To be able to do this, seniors need to have strong quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles. To strengthen their quads and work toward standing up unassisted, seniors can simply practice sitting in a chair and standing back up.
At first, they’ll probably need to use the armrests or hold onto someone else for support. With practice, though, they’ll be able to work up to sitting and standing completely on their own!
A stationary lunge is a more advanced exercise that helps strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, and calves in addition to the quadriceps.
To do a stationary lunge, stand with the legs together. Then, take a large step back with the left leg and stand with the left heel lifted. Stand up straight with the hands on the hips.
Slowly bend the legs and lower the body down toward the floor until the knees form 90-degree angles — don’t let the left knee hit the floor. Slowly rise back up, then repeat for eight repetitions before switching sides.
Swiss Ball Squats
This is another good quadriceps strengthener; it also targets the glutes and hips.To do this exercise, stand up straight with a swiss ball between your shoulders and a wall. Lean back against the ball and slowly bend the knees to lower into a squat. Once the legs have formed a 90-degree angle, press into the ground with the feet and rise back up. Repeat for eight repetitions.
Tools for Seniors Who Lack Lower Body Strength
For seniors who are currently recovering from an injury or suffer from a severe lack of lower body strength, there are a number of tools that can help them get around while they heal, including the following:
- A lift chair, which helps assist individuals in rising from a sitting position.
- A walker or cane, which takes some pressure off the lower body while one stands or walks.
- A grab bar, which seniors can grab onto when they need help standing up.
While the goal is to eventually move away from these tools, it’s great to have them on hand during the recovery process or for seniors who are just getting started with a strength routine.