Ok, so we’ve already talked about walking. Very easy, you can do it inside or outside. You can start out going just 100 feet and work up to a mile. (yes, you can do it!!) We’ve talked about drinking plenty of water, it’s very important to stay hydrated even when you’re not exercising. Please refer to previous blogs, first blog deals with walking, and second blog talks about all the benefits of drinking water.
Today we will talk about leg exercises. To begin with we want to do just some simple standing, range of motion exercises. Start with 10 reps, adding reps until you can do 30 reps easily, then add ankle weights. Starting with 2-3 pounds and going up. Now you are talking about strengthening exercises. Which will help with walking, sitting, standing, getting in and out of bed, climbing stairs, stepping up onto a step stool, and many other activities of daily living.
Remember, check with your primary care physician before starting any exercise program. If any of these exercises cause pain, stop doing that exercise. continue with the exercises that don’t cause pain and check with your Dr if the pain persists.
Ok, lets get started.
Standing at your kitchen counter, or behind a tall kitchen chair, place your hands on the counter (or back of chair) for balance if you need it. Feet shoulder width apart for good base of support….
#1). Hip Flexion exercise: Lift one leg 10 times, then switch sides and do the same on the other leg. Remember, as they get easier add more reps. Work up to 30 of these. This exercise increases strength to your hip flexors, which brings your leg up to your torso which is very important for walking, sitting, standing from sitting position and with help prevent falls
#2). Hip Abduction: This exercise helps to strengthen the outside of your hip. Again with your hands resting on your kitchen counter or back of chair, feet should be shoulder width apart, with leg straight, bring your leg out to the side. Start with one side do 10 reps, then switch to the other leg and repeat. Keep your back straight, head up, don’t lean your torso, your leg should be the only thing moving. If this bothers your back don’t kick out quit so much, lesson the range of motion.
#3) Mini Squat: this exercise is one of the best leg exercises you can do. It works, hamstrings (back of thigh), quads (front of thigh), core (stomach, low back), glutes (buttocks), and gastrocs (calves). So this one is an important one to do. Do this one safely and remember to go down just as far as is comfortable. It is not necessarily important to go all the way down in the beginning. Work up to it. If you have problems coming back up, put a chair behind you. Go down until your bottom touches the chair, then immediately come back up again. start with 10, if you can 5 is a good start too. Then work your way up, remember this is a great exercise.
#4) Heel Raises: Or tippy toes…I don’t think that is an adult phrase, but you get the idea. This exercise strengthens your gastrocnemius (I know, crazy!) this is the back of your calf. Don’t worry, you will feel it when you do this one right. This muscle is important in that it allows your foot to point down, or when you are walking it helps you to push off of your toes. It helps prevent you from tripping, and reduces your chances for falling. Very important for those of you who have this issue. But! It is an easy fix! If you get cramps when performing this exercise, walk it out and try again. Once you get used to this exercise you will no longer cramp. Keep at it, don’t give up!
#5). Toe raises: Or toe taps if you will. This exercise works the anterior tibialis or the front of your calf. This muscle of course raises your toes when you walk. Again preventing that toe from dragging when you are stepping and to prevent you from tripping and falling. Very easy to do but very important!
#6) Hamstring curls: Last but not least, this exercise works the….hamstring, or back of thigh which flexes your knee. Very important for walking, sitting, standing, climbing stairs, bending….you get the picture. It helps with many things you do throughout your day. So again, standing tall, hands on counter, keep leg as straight as you can. No flexing at the hip and bend your knee, as if you are kicking yourself in the bottom. Do one side for all your reps, then switch to the other side.
Ok, those are the easy-to-do leg exercises. Remember to do these slowly and deliberately, don’t rush them, don’t use momentum to do them. You want that muscle to work for you, if you do them too quickly the muscle is not doing the work it needs to get stronger.
Start out walking first, walk around for about 5 minutes before doing the exercises, this will warm up your muscles and decrease any chance for injury, and hopefully will prevent any cramping or other problems.
Drink plenty of water, before, during and after you exercise this too will help decrease chance for cramping or increased dehydration, which as we learned in the last blog can be detrimental!!
Also remember that if any of these cause pain, readjust and try again. If it continues to cause pain stop that exercise, if pain persists talk with your Dr to make sure that there is not some underlying problem.
Remember to talk to your primary care physician before starting any exercise program.
Last but not least, get moving! You can do this!! Your health is in your hands! You are responsible for your own body, treat it like a temple!