Leg Strength and Aging
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
One of the most common changes associated with the aging process is a reduction in muscle mass. The loss of mass is greater in the lower extremities than in the upper extremity muscle groups. There is as much as a 30% decline in muscle strength between the ages of 50 and 70. Any lack of muscle power and leg strength results in a decreased ability to react and respond to sudden changes. For this reason, it’s important to include strengthening exercises for each of the muscle groups listed below to improve stability and help prevent falls.
The quadriceps muscles (the four muscles on the front of the upper thigh) stabilize the knee joint.
The hamstring group of muscles (on the back of the upper thigh) work together with the quadriceps group of muscles to maintain balance and also play an important role in stair climbing and walking.
The muscles of the lower leg, the tibialis anterior, (muscles on the front of the shins) and the larger calf muscles (on the back of the lower leg) control movements of the foot and are active in controlling balance.
The adductor and abductor muscle groups (inner and outer thigh) need to be strengthened since they control lateral movements.
The small muscles in the feet contribute to balance by helping support the toes.
As you can see, in order to improve your overall leg strength it’s important to work all the muscle groups in your lower body. That being said, I’d like to share a great resource with you to help jump start your personal strength training program. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) offers a FREE online manual/workbook on their website called Growing Stronger. This motivational guide is easy to read and offers a straight forward, step by step, plan to help you develop a well-balanced program. The illustrations and exercise instructions are simple and informational. Growing Stronger is a blueprint for developing your own, in home, program to improve overall strength. I hope you will use this resource in conjunction with exercising with me on Sit and Be Fit! Together we can work to stay strong and independent for life!