YOU ARE YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Health, Fitness and Personal Energy for Active Older Adults

Energy Bite 150 – Are Your Legs Holding You Up?

Most of us spend much of our day sitting.  While the newest “buzz words” are “sitting is the new smoking” (which may be a bit of an exaggeration), we really don’t move our legs enough. We don’t strengthen them. We don’t stretch them. We don’t run our leg and hip joints through their full range of motion. What does that mean? It means we lose muscle mass in our legs, they lose elasticity and flexibility, and our knee, ankle and hip joints get rusty and creaky. That spells trouble.

As a person ages, the legs are usually the first part of the body to start deteriorating. How does that expression go? “The legs are the first things to go”. And once the legs start going, the rest of you can’t be far behind, unless . . . you actually do something to keep them strong.

Why are having strong legs so important?

  1. Climbing up and down stairs. Many of us still live in two story (or more) homes. We climb the stairs at home many times each day.  And if you happen to be a tourist in Washington, DC this week, you’ll soon learn that the elevators in the Washington Monument are under repair. That’s 897 stair steps you’ll have to climb (and go back down, too).
  2. Getting up and down from the floor. As you get older, you’ll find it more difficult getting up and down from the floor. How are you going to do floor exercises if you can’t get up and down?
  3. Getting up from a chair without using your hands. I’m talking dining room chairs, not comfortable lounge chairs.
  4. Walking from point A to point B without tired legs or getting winded.
  5. Maintaining your balance and preventing falls. Strong legs make it easier to catch yourself if you start to fall.
  6. Going dancing. Old dancers seem to live longer and keep their shapely or muscular legs. Dick Van Dyke is still dancing at age 90. The TV show “Dancing with the Stars” has showcased a number of older dancers who you would think were long past their prime. Yet they seem to dance like the kids, if not better. I saw Tina Turner perform in Las Vegas in 1962 with Ike Turner as the “Ike and Tina Turner Review”.  She danced and sang with pure, raw energy then. Watch a recent YouTube video of her dancing and singing Proud Mary. Whoa! She is 76 now and still performs with the energy, stamina, and legs she had at 22.

How do you build or maintain strength in your legs?  Let’s keep it simple. Here are four simple exercises for your legs  (Thighs, hamstrings and calves):

  1. Squats for your thighs – Start out using a dining room chair. Sit near the edge of the chair, lean forward and stand up and sit down a few times without using your arms for support. Then do the same movement without a chair.
  2. Hamstring stretches and raises. Lay down on the floor (see, I told you) and put your feet up on the bed with your butt close to the bed. Lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees with your feet on the bed. Lower your butt and repeat. You’ll soon feel it in the back of your legs.
  3. Calf Raises. This is too easy. Stand with your legs close together with your feet flat on the floor. Lift up on your toes and drop back down. After a while, put the balls of your feet on a stair step and lower your heels below the level of your toes when you drop down. Have some sort of support handy.
  4. Best of all is to . . . WALK . . . A LOT!

Of course, anytime you are doing any exercise for the first time, check with a medical professional before starting.

Don’t let your legs get weak from lack of use. Do these leg exercises for a while and watch your legs get stronger – fast. Then keep doing them. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for reading.