Leg Exercise for Older Adults by Decade

As we age, our bodies tend to become more fragile. The muscle tone, bone density, and proprioception reduce markedly.

This is a natural course, but with proper exercise and workout regimens for older adults, one can effectively tackle old age and all the hassles it brings. 

How Are Exercises for Older Adults Different Than Exercise for Young People?

As the seniors suffer decreased joint mobility and bone stature, heavy exercises can have an adverse effect. This article focuses on the activities which can effectively target muscle groups essential for the elderly to perform daily tasks.

Man doing stretching exercises.

You should note that exercises ideal for people in their 50s may not be suitable for those in their 70s or even 60s. On the other hand, some exercises make you age faster, which you must avoid!

Therefore, an elaborate discussion is essential in this regard.

Why do the Elderly Need to Train Their Legs More Than Anyone Else?

The most common way of injury in the elderly is falling.

It is estimated about 10% of all falls in seniors cause significant injuries, including intracranial injuries (ICIs) and fractures. 

It is due to the aforementioned decrease in muscle and bone density.

As we age, the body stops producing essential hormones like testosterone in males and estrogen in females. This decline may lead to muscular atrophy and osteoporosis (severe decrease in bone mass).

Hence, it becomes essential to tackle this menace of old age by doing some exercises for older adults.

The exercises should focus on the lower body muscles, which can strengthen the whole posture and balance the body. It can effectively reduce the risk of falling and injuries.

The Four Best Lower Body Exercises for Adults in Their 50s

In their early 50s, many people start noticing weakness in their muscles and a decline in general strength.

This is because of the under secretion of bone-strengthening hormones as well as general apathy towards daily tasks. Many women around this time experience menopause, which can increase the loss of muscle mass.

However, with these exercises, people can build a strong core and lower body, which can actually help increase their targeted hormone production, like testosterone.


Targeted muscles: Glutes, thighs, and abs.

Squats are regarded as the best exercise for training the lower body. Being a good compound movement, it not only trains quads and hamstrings but can also strengthen the core. 

One is far less likely to experience disbalance and falls if the core is strong. In addition, the activity strengthens the buttocks and thighs while increasing hip and knee flexibility and range of motion.

Tip: Don’t forget to embrace your core as you perform the movement. You can also use knee support or wraps if you feel joint discomfort as you come down. Start by free bodyweight training and gradually shift to weighted exercise as you progress.

Alternating Reverse Lunges

Targeted muscles: Glutes, legs, and abs.

This exercise can help with balance and normal regular movements. Moreover, it has been effective in sharpening muscle-eye coordination, making for a great addition to exercises for older adults.

Start by performing 12 reps of each leg and work your way up. If you find it too difficult to do it in free weight, use a chair for assistance.

Single-Leg Heel Raise 

Targeted muscles: Hamstrings, abs.

It can be great for balancing and proprioception. Heel raises can also help strengthen hamstrings, making it easier to get up from that lazy office chair.

Hip Thrusts

Targeted muscles: Glutes and hamstrings.

Hip thrusts can be a great addition to lower body workouts. Incorporating it into your training can help make quads fatigue-resistant. It also helps in daily compound movements.

People in their 50s need this exercise more than anyone else as they are more prone to lower back injuries and bad posture. A strong core and glutes provide the necessary balance.

The Four Best Lower Body Exercises in the 60s

Generally, in their 60s, people experience sarcopenia (muscle loss). Although this is natural, it can hurt daily performance. As a result, people become more prone to injuries and bad posture.

But luckily, this effect can be markedly reduced by training muscles, especially those of the lower body. 

Below are the four best exercises for older adults that can develop muscle tone without putting their joints at risk.

Partial Squats

Targeted muscles: Quads, hamstrings, glutes.

Unlike the people in their 50s, seniors have a higher risk of injuring their knee-joint during a compound movement such as a complete squat.

This can be resolved by having a partial range of movement. Here partial denotes motion until your legs are parallel to the ground. You can also use knee wraps as secondary assistance.

Tip: If you feel like partial squats are getting more manageable and no knee pain is felt, switch to full squats.

Step-Up March

Targeted muscles:  Legs and abs.

Step-Up Marches can be just perfect for you to improve your body coordination and movements. Here you “step” on a low height box (as the name denotes) and thrust your knee up. 

It is also a good substitute exercise for older adults to alternating lunges as they can be more prone to injury.

Tip: If thrusting your knee makes it hard to balance, take that out of this exercise and just stick to the step-up.

Knee Extensions

Targeted muscles: Quads, abs.

It is, hands down, the best exercise to define your quads at this age. Developed quads can help you a lot during walking and getting up. All you have to do is to sit on a chair and flex your quads as far as they can go.

It can also help you with knee pain as the movement provides good joint mobility. 

Ankle Circles

Targeted muscles: Legs and hip joint.

This exercise is great to warm up the muscles in the lower legs before starting a complete exercise routine. 

Ankle circles also increase joint flexibility. In addition, the technique can easily be performed while sitting or standing and holding a chair or railing for support.

Seniors can simply lift one leg and rotate the ankle in circles five times in both directions and repeat the process with the other leg. 

The Four Best Lower Body Exercises in the 70s

Someone using a leg exercise machine.

The prime focus of exercises in the 70s (and beyond) is to avoid injuries via falling by maintaining muscle tone. Therefore, you would want to do those exercises that can develop lower body strength and prioritize safety. Therefore, using extra assistance is the way to go.

These exercises for older adults are designed to keep a steady pace. If during exercise any movement feels too strenuous, skip it. Besides, if you begin to feel fatigued during the training, drink some water and get some rest!

Chair Sit-to-Stand

Targeted muscles: Quad, glutes.

This is more of a movement-related variant of squats. It targets the same group of muscles but more cautiously.

It focuses on getting up from the chair and then sitting down repeatedly, at a steady pace.

Tip: There is no need to rush getting up from your chair. Feel free to pause for a few moments before standing up again.

Step-Up with Support

Targeted muscles:  Legs and abs.

Just like Step-Up Marches, it can be just perfect for you to train your body coordination and movements at this age. Here you “step” on a low height box using support (a counter or a railing).

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Marching in Place 

Targeted muscles: Quads, Abs.

This exercise is excellent for improving balance in seniors. You can also do this exercise in front of a counter if you need to hold onto something.

Stand straight, lift your left knee as high as you can. Then, lower it and lift the right leg. Repeat the action around 20-25 times.

It can also help you with knee pain as the movement provides good joint mobility.

Counter-Support Heel Raise 

Targeted muscles: Legs and calves.

This exercise is great to warm the muscles in the lower legs, especially calves, which can help you stroll through the day.


Old age can be tiresome and exhausting, and there’s no doubt about that. 

Once you get past your 50s, your body gradually starts to malfunction, your BMI gets all over the place(causing further complications), and you might feel very lethargic.

However, you can indeed keep your body optimally functional if you incorporate healthy exercise into your daily routine.

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