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Why Lower Body Muscles are So Important and How to Build Them

Having strong lower body, or leg muscles, is important for maintaining mobility and agility. There are even chair exercises your parents can do to build them. 

When you think about the important role that the leg muscles play in our functioning, it’s easy to see why it is necessary to keep them in strong shape. This is especially true when it comes to senior citizens as weak thigh muscles are a risk factor for falls. Your parents will greatly benefit from thigh exercises and strengthening of these muscles. It is a good idea to encourage them to work out the lower body muscles because a little work will go a long way.

Strong thigh importance
According to the European Journal of Applied Physiology, an older adult’s leg extension strength may be associated with the ability to prevent falls. Research found that those within the study who had stronger legs (when tested for a whole leg extension) were better able to prevent falls, even when there were gait disturbances. 

“Strengthening the leg muscles is a key component to helping your parents avoid a fall…”

Leg strength training exercises
According to America Family Physicians, it is safe for most adults over the age of 65 to exercise. Even those with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other illnesses are usually candidates for safely exercising. Getting aerobic activity is the most ideal, but focusing on strength training exercises also helps. Depending on the health status of your parents, some can be done standing up, some while bracing themselves on a chair, and chair exercises are also beneficial.

According to the National Institute on Aging, some exercises that your parents can do to help build their lower body muscles include:

     
  • Chair stands – Place a pillow on the back of the chair and then practice standing up from a seated position. The object is to work up to a point where they are not using their hands to get up each time. Once the thigh muscles strengthen, they will be able to get up from that seated position. Slowly sit down and then repeat this process 8 to 15 times.
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  • Plantar flexion – To strengthen the calf muscles, use ankle weights and have them stand behind a chair, bracing themselves on the back. Slowly lift the calves to be on the tiptoes and hold for one second. Slowly lower heel to the ground and then repeat the process 8 to 15 repetitions.
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  • Knee flexions – Standing behind a chair, and using it for support, slowly bend knee up as far as possible, holding for one second. Slowly repeat and alternate legs, completing 8 to 15 repetitions. Ankle weights can be worn, if desired.
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  • Knee extensions – While sitting in a chair have them simply extend one leg as far as possible, hold for a second, and slowly lower. Repeat and alternate legs, completing 8 to 15 repetitions. Again, ankle weights can be worn if desired.

Strengthening the leg muscles is a key component to helping your parents avoid a fall, which is the most common form of injury for their age group. Plus, it can be debilitating and send them into a spiral of poor health. Encouraging your parents to engage in strengthening muscles is one way to help keep them independent.



     
  • An older adult’s whole leg extension strength may be associated with their ability to prevent falls. (Source: European Journal of Applied Physiology)
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  • It is safe for most adults over the age of 65 to exercise. (Source: America Family Physicians)
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  • Doing knee extensions while sitting down will help to build lower leg muscles. (Source: National Institute on Aging)