11 Best Leg Exercises at Home to Prevent Falls

It is not uncommon to see an aging loved one fall and see how it affects their life in the months to come. As mobility becomes compromised with age, it is important for seniors to incorporate leg exercises that can reduce the risk of falls.

Falls can have serious consequences, with one in five resulting in a bone or head injury. A broken hip, in particular, can be devastating. It is important to note that 95% of all broken hip cases result from falls. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate ways to prevent these falls and reduce the risk of injury.

Increasing leg strength is an important factor in reducing falls. Weak legs can increase the likelihood of falls, making it essential to improve leg strength. Weightlifting is an effective way to achieve this goal. By building leg strength, we can reduce the risk of falls and prevent injuries.

However, it is important to identify which leg exercises can help strengthen leg muscles. Hence, it is necessary to delve deeper into this topic and find out the various leg exercises that can help in building leg strength.

Why Seniors Lose Muscle Strength

As individuals age, inactivity is commonly associated with the process. People in their 70s generally do not consider themselves to be any more active than those in their early 20s. There are many reasons for this, but the end result is that older people lose muscle. The saying “use it or lose it” applies in this context.

When inactivity is combined with changes in hormone levels (low testosterone and human growth hormone), decreased caloric intake, pain, and other factors, it can easily lead to a decrease in muscle strength and size. This is particularly concerning when it comes to sarcopenia, a condition characterized by loss of muscle mass that can significantly affect the quality of life of older individuals.

The point here is that loss of muscle mass results in a reduced quality of life. Weakness increases the risk of injury, increases pain, and makes it difficult to perform daily activities.

As a result, it is important for seniors to maintain and build on their strengths regardless of their age.

Leg Exercises to Reduce Falls in Seniors

To help reduce the risk of falls among seniors, I would recommend incorporating some of the following foot exercises. However, it is important to note that medical clearance from a doctor is necessary before starting any exercise program.

Please note that these exercises are suggestions only and should only be performed after being approved by a medical professional. Additionally, recommended exercises will vary based on a person’s specific health conditions.

1. Squat

Squats are one of the most effective leg exercises for reducing the risk of falls in older individuals. However, it’s important to note that many seniors experience knee pain that makes traditional squats difficult to perform.

I would suggest different types of squats like bodyweight squats (usually from a chair), goblet squats (also from a chair), TRX squats, or suitcase squats from a chair depending on your personal health conditions.

Squats are a highly effective exercise for targeting the leg muscles. Regardless of the variation you choose, squats will work the overall leg musculature.

There are many instructional videos available for those who are unfamiliar with the proper squatting technique. It’s important to make sure you’re using the proper form to avoid injury and maximize the benefits of exercise.

2. Leg Curls

It is important to focus on the hamstrings to maintain balance and prevent falls among older individuals. The front of the thigh is often stronger than the back, which can lead to muscle imbalances and various problems.

A study done on female athletes showed that strengthening the hamstrings may help reduce the risk of ACL tears. Therefore, targeting the hamstrings is essential, and one exercise that can help with this is the hamstring curl.

3. Calf Raises

Calf raises are a straightforward exercise that almost everyone can do safely unless they have a condition like gout or fused ankles. I usually provide my clients with a stable object to hold onto, and instruct them to stand on their toes and do calf raises, and then lower their heels repeatedly.

This exercise targets the calf muscles and can also help strengthen the muscles around the ankles, which in turn can help prevent ankle sprains.

4. Seated Straight Leg Raises

To target the front of the thighs in clients experiencing knee pain, I would suggest a modified exercise. Clients will sit with a wedge pillow against a wall for added comfort, and legs extended straight out in front of them.

The exercise involves lifting one leg at a time, starting with the right leg, and repeating the movement for 10 or more reps before switching to the left leg. The starting position is an ‘L’ shape, and the client will lift their leg to form a ‘V’ position. However, it is essential to ensure that the leg is raised only to a comfortable height, which may be a few inches off the ground, depending on the ability of the client.

The purpose of this exercise is to work the front of the thighs, providing a low-impact option for individuals experiencing knee pain. Remember to always listen to your body and avoid any movements that cause discomfort or pain.

5. Bridges

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

The exercise involves lifting your hips off the floor using your glutes to power the movement. It is essential to focus on engaging the muscles of your buttocks to lift your body off the ground, rather than relying on other muscles such as the legs or back. To achieve this, mentally focus on flexing your butt as far as possible and hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds without physically clenching your butt.

By performing this exercise, you can effectively work your glutes, which can help reduce knee pain and improve lower body strength.

6. Seated Hip Abductions

One gym equipment that’s great for working the glutes is the seated leg press machine. While some women may jokingly refer to this as the “baby-making machine,” this exercise can help improve lower body strength and balance.

The seated leg press machine involves sitting in a chair-like seat and pushing against resistance with your legs. Since there is no active extension of the knee, individuals with knee pain can perform this exercise without any problems. However, caution should be exercised when working with individuals with sciatica.

By incorporating the seated leg press into your workout routine, you can effectively target your glutes, which can help improve your posture, stability, and lower-body strength. Remember to always start with a comfortable weight and gradually increase intensity as your strength improves.

7. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a highly effective exercise for building lower body strength, especially in the butt and legs. However, it is important to perform this exercise correctly to avoid any risk of lower back injury. Therefore, it is highly recommended to work with a personal trainer who has experience teaching proper form.

For older clients or those with limited mobility, the kettlebell deadlift may be a good option. By using kettlebells and a small box to increase the weight, clients can lift without bending over, which may be more comfortable for some. It is essential to start with a light weight and gradually increase the intensity as your strength and confidence improve.

Incorporating deadlifts into your workout routine can provide significant benefits, including lower body strength, improved posture, and increased bone density.

8. Leg Extensions

Despite its criticism in the personal training world, I believe the leg extension machine still holds value as a strength-building exercise. While some argue that it is not a “functional” movement, the fact is that strength is functional and can greatly improve quality of life.

However, it is important to note that individuals with knee pain or arthritis may need to avoid this exercise because it can drive the kneecap back into the leg bones, causing discomfort. For people without any knee problems, a leg extension machine can be a safe and effective way to target the quadriceps and improve lower body strength.

9. Clamshells

One of my go-to exercises for targeting the glutes and hips is the clamshell. To make this even more effective, I like to use MiniBand with my clients.

To perform the exercise, begin by lying on your side in a slightly bent position with your knees bent. Place the miniband around both legs, just above the knees (not the knees themselves). Then, engage your glutes and open your top leg from the hip away from your body, like a clamshell.

Repeat this movement for a set number of repetitions before switching to the other side. As you progress, you can increase the resistance of the miniband or add other variations to the exercise, such as raising the top leg or holding the clamshell position for a few seconds.

Not only is the clamshell exercise simple and effective but using a miniband can help activate the glute medius, an often neglected muscle that plays a key role in hip stabilization and overall lower-body strength.

10. Weighted Knee Raises

One exercise I like to use to target the quadriceps without increasing knee pain is the seated leg raise. To do this exercise, first, sit on a chair with good posture. Place an ankle weight on one leg (or hold a dumbbell on top of the thigh), and then lift the leg straight out in front of you.

Focus on engaging the quadriceps muscles to lift the leg rather than using momentum or other muscles. Hold the leg up for a few seconds, then slowly lower it back to the starting position. Repeat for a set number of repetitions before switching to the other leg.

By performing the exercise while seated and without any active knee extension, we can effectively target the top of the thigh without placing stress on the knee joint. This is a great option for those with knee pain who still want to strengthen their quadriceps. As you progress, you can increase the weight or number of repetitions to continue challenging the muscles.

Does Walking Strengthen Your Legs?

Walking is a good form of cardiovascular exercise that can benefit overall health, but it may not be the most effective way to strengthen leg muscles and reduce your risk of falls. Strength training is important for building fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for leg strength. While running at a slow pace can help build smooth muscle fibers, which are responsible for endurance, it may not be enough to fully strengthen the legs.

Engaging in actual strength training exercises, such as those outlined in this article, may be more beneficial for building leg strength and reducing your risk of falls.


Falls are a serious concern for older adults and strengthening the feet can significantly reduce the risk of falls. By incorporating strength training exercises such as the 11 exercises discussed in this article, seniors can improve their leg muscles, balance, and stability.

However, it is important to seek guidance from a personal trainer or healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

With proper guidance and consistent effort, these exercises can help older adults maintain their independence and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

4.9/5 - (14 votes)

Leave a Comment