Walking well requires adequate core and leg strength. The strength of these muscles contributes to the speed and stability of your walking. There are many exercises that can improve your core and leg strength. Here are three of my favourites.
Sit to stand
If I had to pick one exercise as a favourite, this would be it. Moving from a seated to a standing position is an easy way to increase the strength and power in your legs. It is best done off a firm chair placed against a wall so it won’t slide away from you.
Position yourself in the middle of the seat or slightly closer to the front. Keeping your feet and knees hip-width apart, stand up to a fully upright position. If possible, do not use your hands pushing on the armrests or your legs to help.
Slowly sit back down in the chair without flopping down. Repeat this exercise several times in a row to build the strength in your legs. You should feel the muscles working in your thighs (quadriceps) and buttocks (gluteals).
Increasing strength in these muscles will increase your walking endurance and speed.
This exercise involves lying on your back with your knees bent and using your buttock (gluteal) muscles to lift your hips up, while keeping your feet down.
The bridge primarily strengthens your abdominal, lower back and gluteal muscles to increase your walking endurance and tolerance. It is best done on a mat on the floor, but can be done on a bed if getting to the floor is difficult.
Take care in this movement to ensure your lower back does not arch or experience discomfort.
Stand next to your kitchen countertop with your fingertips placed on top for balance. Use your calf muscles to lift your heels up off the floor without letting your ankles wiggle too much.
Ensure your body moves straight upward. Take care not to lean or sway forward, which would decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.
Calf strength contributes to your ability to push off and maintain an adequate walking speed to cross the street before the light changes and keep up with your children, grandchildren and pets.
These movements should not be painful. If you have any health conditions that might make these exercises unsafe or uncomfortable for you, it is best to consult your physiotherapist before starting something new.
It is important to have confidence in your technique and movement to ensure you are maximizing the benefit of your time spent exercising.
Walking well requires both strength and stability. In my next column, I will review the importance of stability and some easy ways to work on it at home.
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