As we age, we tend to become less and less stable, putting us at risk for falls. By the time we reach 75, most of us have lost 30 to 50 percent of the nerves in our legs, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Physiology.
As they say, use it or lose it, as researchers note those with stronger muscles are less likely to have a significant loss of those nerves. By keeping your legs strong and fit throughout your life, you’ll be healthier, stronger, and less likely to become injured when you’re older. Of course, it’s never too late to start, no matter what your age. In addition to trying the exercises below at home, you might want to consider preventative physical therapy. A professional physical therapist can recommend a program that addresses specific activity training, posture, body mechanics, lifting techniques, balance/coordination practice. and nutrition/weight loss advice.
Bodyweight squats work the hips, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. You’ll begin by standing with your hands in front of you and your feet about shoulder-width apart. As if you’re about to sit down into a chair, slowly squat as you push your hips back while flexing at your knees. Aim to be parallel, then return to the starting position.
Work the glutes, quads, and hamstrings with this exercise by standing with your feet at shoulder-width distance. You can place your hands behind your head for a more advanced move, or out in front of you. Step to one side, sitting back with the glutes while keeping your torso upright and focusing on keeping your shins vertical to the ground. Return to your starting position using your glutes and hamstrings.
Walking lunges are ideal for strengthening your entire leg while also engaging your core and getting your heart rate up. If you have them, you can also hold dumbbells above your head, or hold one with both hands for a more advanced move. Stand with your spine straight and then extend one leg in front of you and lower to a lunge. Keep your knee behind your toes and work to maintain balance. Push up to standing and lunge forward on the other leg.
Calf raises are one of the easiest exercises to squeeze into your daily life, strengthening the calves. Simply stand with your feet about hip-width apart and slowly lift your heels, rising onto the balls of your feet, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
Curtsy squats work your glutes and outer thighs while challenging balance for a full-body muscle exercise. Start by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and then slide one leg diagonally behind you. Lower into a lunge and then press to standing. Repeat on the opposite leg.
This exercise is a hinging motion that strengthens the back, hips, hamstrings, and glutes, improving your stability while evening out any imbalances. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and then raise one leg out behind you, shifting your weight to the other leg. Hinge at your hips, bending forward while extending your leg behind you. You want your body to almost form a “T.” Pause before slowly returning to start, completing all reps on one leg before switching to the other.