As people age, their muscle mass and strength declines which is extremely concerning for those over the age of 40. This aging process not only causes muscle weakness, it also restricts the amount of physical activity one can facilitate at an older age. Research shows that people over the age of 50 had more than 15% strength loss per decade. A reduced amount of physical activity can lead to lower extremity weakness. Muscle weakness can lend itself to the onset of fatal falls which account for 30-40% of older adults injuries. However, keeping your legs strong and reducing the amount of muscle loss as you age can be very easy. Here are some simple ways to keep your legs strong and healthy:
Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time:
Sitting down may be comfortable at times, but is not healthy for our bodies. More than half of us sit down for about 6 hours a day. When we are sitting down, our most powerful part of our bodies aren’t in use. The lack of muscle use causes the human body to lose strength. According to LiveStrong.com, sitting down for long periods of time, “can cause muscle fibers to break down. This is known as muscle atrophy and can make your leg muscles weak over time.” Some easy ways to avoid prolonged sitting and standing are to take a walk or climb stairs.
Exercise your legs:
Participating in exercises that strengthen your legs can help prevent lower extremity weakness. The sit to stand chair exercise works well for people, especially seniors, with weak legs and allows them to improve their balance. Research shows that an older adult’s leg extension strength may be associated with the ability to prevent falls. Including strength training and functional movements to your exercise routine can help combat and prevent lower extremity weakness.
Control your weight:
Another way to combat and prevent lower extremity weakness is to monitor your weight. An increase in weight can have serious effects on a person’s joints and overall health. Research has shown that by losing 10 – 15 pounds can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis and lower extremity weakness. To combat lower extremity weakness in your legs consider participating in daily exercise and a healthy diet.
Elevate your legs:
Poor circulation can put pressure onto your leg and affect the bodies lower extremities. When the legs and feet are elevated 6 – 12 inches above the heart, it relieves pressure from the legs. This allows your blood to flow away from your legs which can reduce leg swelling and pain. Diabetes and atherosclerosis are the main causes of poor circulation in the body, but are also associated with smoking, living an inactive lifestyle, or having high blood pressure or cholesterol. To reduce lower extremity weakness, elevate your legs while your sitting or laying down to increase your bodies circulation.
At Poet’s Walk, a Spring Hills Memory Care Community, we encourage our assisted living residents to continue to stay active by incorporating daily full-body exercise classes that can be done right from their chair. Our Director of Resident Engagement, Phillip Robb, explains that, “At Poet’s Walk, we offer exercise plans that target and strengthen the lower extremities. We use simple to understand exercises that help manage and even alleviate lower extremity weakness for the seniors.” With the assistance of our caregivers, we combat the multi-factorial effect of aging by engaging client in physical and mental activities that are designed to nurture their mind, body, and spirit.