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Leg Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

6 min read

By Clarissa Vanner

Medically Reviewed by Eric Leckie, PT

Are your legs feeling weak and tired? Maybe you haven’t experienced this yet, but it’s something you worry about. If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Many seniors worry about developing weak legs. After all, having strong legs is vital for balance, preventing falls, and maintaining your independence. Thankfully there are ways you can keep your legs strong and healthy by doing leg strengthening exercises!

Improving strength and mobility in your legs requires taking care of bone health, enjoying a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. If you want to take charge of your own body and start improving your balance and strengthening your legs, then give these 10 leg exercises for seniors a try!

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Leg Raises

Leg raises are great exercises that will help strengthen your lower body. They will also help to improve your balance and flexibility. During this exercise, you will be targeting your legs, hips, lower back, and pelvis area.

To begin this exercise start by lying on your back, keeping one knee bent, and one knee straight. Make sure your toes are pointing towards the ceiling and place your palms down for support. Next, raise your straight leg to the level of your bent knee and then return back to the starting position. Try to repeat for 10 repetitions and then repeat with the opposite leg.

If you feel that the exercise is too easy then try adding a low weight to your ankle or you can try holding the raised position for up to 10 seconds. You can also try to raise both legs at the same time to make the exercise more of a challenge.

man performing leg strengthening exercise, leg raises

Calf Raises

The calf muscle is an area that many forget to train but it is important. Strengthening your calves will help you have a stronger and sturdy stride when walking. The calf muscles also help pump blood up from your legs to your upper body and even to the brain.

To begin, stand behind a chair holding onto it with your hands. The chair will help you keep your balance. Next, raise up on your toes — go as high as you can, comfortably. Then return back down and try to complete 10 reps. If you still feel unstable with the chair then try spreading your feet further apart. However, if the exercise feels too easy you can try it without the chair which will also help you improve your balance.

calf raises while leaning on a chair for support


Do you ever have difficulty getting up from a chair, climbing stairs, bending, or do you want to improve your walking workout? Then be sure to add squats into your exercise routine! Squats are a great exercise that can help strengthen the muscles in your lower body. They will also help improve your hip and knee flexibility too.

There are several ways you can perform a squat. Beginners may want to use a chair for support. Start in a standing position in front of the chair. Keep your feet a little wider than hip-width and your toes facing forward. Next, bend your knees and hips until you’re almost seated and then press into your heels and return to the standing position. Make sure your chest is up and shoulders are back.

Complete this exercise for about five to 10 reps. To make squats more challenging you can try this exercise standing with your back against a wall or you can try it standing without any support at all.

group of seniors performing squats

Ankle Circles

Maintaining strong ankles is vital if you want to have a good balance. This will also help prevent falls, help you to get out of a chair easily, and will improve walking too. A great way to improve the strength and flexibility in your ankles is to perform ankle circles.

To begin, sit up tall in a chair and extend one leg in front of you while keeping the other on the floor. Next, rotate your ankle clockwise for about 10 to 20 rotations and then repeat counter-clockwise. Once complete, lower your leg to the starting posting and repeat with the opposite leg. A quick tip if you find lifting your knee is difficult then try performing the exercises by extending your knee out instead.

woman performing ankle circles to strengthen legs

Knee Extensions

Your knees play an important role in helping you stand, sit, walk, run, and lift. With that in mind, maintaining strong knees is of the utmost importance! Knee extensions are a great exercise that will help improve and maintain your flexibility and range of motion.

Start these exercises seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Then straighten one knee out and hold it for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. Then repeat with the opposite leg until you’ve completed 10 reps per leg. To engage the quadriceps (front of thigh) bring your toes back towards your body until you can feel the stretch in that muscle.

knee extensions

Standing Knee Flexion

Standing knee flexion is another great exercise that will help with walking, standing, and improving your overall balance. It specifically targets your hamstring muscles (a group of three muscles located on the back of your thigh).

Start by standing behind a chair and hold onto it for support. Bend one knee backward as high as you can and then return to the starting position. Try to complete this exercise for 10 reps and repeat with the opposite leg. Make sure you stand straight and don’t bend your hips during the movement. To make this exercise more challenging try holding onto the chair with one hand or don’t hold onto the chair at all. You can also add two to five-pound weights to your ankle to make the exercise even harder.

woman performing standing knee flexion exercise

Hip Extension

Hip extensions will help strengthen your hip muscles. This is important if you want to improve or maintain your ability to walk. The hips are also responsible for supporting your body weight and movement in the upper leg.

To start a hip extension stand behind a chair. Hold onto the chair for balance. Next, extend your leg backward but be sure to keep your knee straight. Then return to the start position and repeat for 10 reps per leg. To make this exercise more of a challenge you can try adding a light (two to five pounds) weight to your ankle or you can try it without using the chair for support.

hip extensions while holding onto chair for support

Heel Stand

The heel stand exercise is another great exercise to help strengthen your ankles. This is important for improving your balance and it will also help increase blood flow through your legs.

To start, stand behind a chair and hold onto it for balance. Next, raise up on your heels with your toes pointing up towards the ceiling. Lower back down to the starting position and then repeat for 10 reps. Try to keep your body as straight as possible and avoid leaning into the chair. To make this exercise more difficult you can try holding onto the chair with just one finger for support.

Heel stand exercise

Hip Marching

This is another great exercise to improve the strength in your hip flexors as well as your thighs. Hip marching is great for improving/maintaining your ability to walk. You’ll also have more confidence when stepping over things which will help prevent tripping and falling.

Begin by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Then lift one knee as high as you can comfortably and then lower back to the starting position. Next, alternate to the other leg and continue alternating until you’ve performed 10 reps per leg.

Hip marching while sitting in a chair


Lunges are excellent exercises for improving your quad (front of thigh) strength. They also help achieve a more stable core. This is important for things like getting out of a chair, lifting objects and it’ll help improve your posture as well.

To get started stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your arms at your sides or on your hips. Next, step forward with one leg and slightly bend your knee. Make sure your core is vertical and not hunched or bent over. You also don’t want to bend your knee too far forward — if your knee goes past your toes you are bending too far. Finally, push back up and return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps per leg.


DPT, Doctor of Physiotherapy

Eric Leckie is a men's health Physiotherapist specializing in prostate cancer treatment. He completed his studies in Australia earning his Doctor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. He currently works in a private practice, in addition to owning his own Telehealth Physiotherapy clinic which focuses on treating men with prostate cancer.



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