As you get older, your legs tend to lose muscle mass and become weaker. Muscles also shrink and ligaments and tendons become more rigid as you age, which can lead to stiffness. Other factors that may contribute to leg weakness and stiffness include health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, according to “Nursing Care Plans & Documentation: Nursing Diagnoses and Collaborative Problems.” Regular exercise can improve flexibility or range of motion and help to keep you active.
Exercises using weights, resistance bands, weight machines or objects around your home can help you build and maintain muscle. Even small changes in muscle strength will improve function, according to the National Institute on Aging. They recommend trying to weight train at least two days a week for 30 minutes. Focus on all your major muscle groups — chest, back, abdomen, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and buttocks. However, do not work out the same muscle group two days in a row, advises the NIA.
Stretching is a common way to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility and range of motion. However, it may also provide similar strengthening benefits of weight-training on a smaller scale by activating some of the same reactions in cells, according to Arnold Nelson, an associate professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Stretching exercises might also increase endurance. Common forms of these exercises include dynamic stretches, for example, moving or swinging your arms and legs through a range of motion such as reaching over and touching your feet with your fingers. Static stretches are particularly good for improving flexibility, according Moorpark College Fitness Center. These involve slowly lengthening or stretching the muscle and holding the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeating it three to four times.
This ancient holistic practice activates your body in different ways and provides benefits such as increased flexibility and strengthening, as well as boosting overall health, according to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga.” To treat leg weakness and stiffness, you can choose from several types of yoga, such as hatha, which is the most common form of yoga practiced in America, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Hatha yoga focuses on using poses that can increase flexibility, while Ashtanga yoga is more physically demanding. The UMM recommends practicing yoga under a trained professional to get the most benefit and avoid injury.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Aging changes in the bones - muscles - joints - Overview
- Nursing Care Plans & Documentation: Nursing Diagnoses And Collaborative Problems”; Lynda Juall Carpenito-Moyet; 2009
- National Institute on Aging: Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Ins
- The Stretching Institute: Stretching May Offer Extended Benefits
- Moorpark College Fitness Center: Flexibility
- “The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga: Illustrated”; Joan Budilovsky and Eve Adamson; 2003
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.