By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
If you want to burn extra calories, improve your balance, and maintain your independence for as long as possible, strengthen your legs. Strengthening your lower body is vital for your health for many reasons, including weight management, balance, core stability, low-back support, and more. Your exercise program should include multiple exercises to strengthen your legs, especially your glutes (buttocks), thighs, and hamstring.
These muscles make up a large portion of the entire musculoskeletal system and they attach to the pelvic bone and regions which influence posture, core, and lower back. Because of the way these muscles attach to the pelvic bone and influence other regions of the body, they need to be strengthened and exercised.
Strengthen the glute muscles
The glute muscles are the primary muscles involved with sitting and standing, which are pivotal to independent living as we age. The hamstring muscles work with the glutes and is attached to the pelvic bone and can influence pelvic stability. Weak or tight hamstrings can slightly pull on the pelvic bone and create an abnormal tilt that can cause back pain or pinch on nerves that can cause radiating pain or sciatica.
Also, the hamstring muscles are responsible for flexing or bending your knee when walking and they also help stabilize balance when bending over to pick something up off the ground.
Strength program recommendations
Last but not least, the thighs are important for extending or straightening your leg when walking, standing up from a seated position, or climbing stairs. Collectively, all three muscles groups work together and should be exercised on a regular basis.
A good, sound recommendation is to strengthen your legs one to two times per week. A good strengthening plan would be to lift heavier one day and followed by one lighter leg lift two to three days later. In addition to strengthening, you can stretch your legs and entire body daily.
Another positive result of strengthening these muscle groups is that you can significantly increase the amount of calories you burn. Strengthening your glutes, thighs, and hamstrings can increase caloric expenditure because these muscles combined are the largest functioning muscle group in your entire body and they contract constantly when you are walking and moving.
Combine lower body strengthening with 30 minutes of cardio exercise and you are on your way to a healthier, stronger, better you!
*For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
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