Leg Exercise for Life

Leg exercise may be the most rewarding exercise we can be involved in.  Our sedentary life styles are not conducive to great health - especially where our legs and feet are concerned.

Keeping your legs in great shape is the best thing you can do for your great health as you age.  Don't join the epidemic  of senior citizens riding around on their electric scooters or wheelchairs.  When you exercise your legs you also exercise your heart.

Walking is the most natural form of leg exercise - and the most relaxing.

Running is more demanding, but it certainly is the natural upgrade from brisk walking.  Like running, though, power walking is excellent aerobic exercise;.

Walking on a daily basis for thirty minutes or more can be very important if you're carrying more weight than you should be.  Walking is very helpful for losing extra weight - assuming you also adopt correct eating habits.

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If you're more than 5 pounds overweight, take the weight off by eliminating certain foods from your diet and by taking a brisk walk every day. 

It's not hard to figure out which foods to eliminate - just stop eating the ones which taste the best - especially if you enjoy desserts with lots of soda. 

If you enjoy lots of baked goods, you can do yourself and your legs a huge favor by making some drastic changes in your dietary habits.  Eliminating wheat and a few other grains will not only make your exercise routines more enjoyable and productive, it will lengthen your life.

For much more detail, see the Dangerous Foods page on this site.

Keep in mind that as you begin to train your body, your taste buds can also be re-trained so that you can enjoy eating raw, organically grown fruits and vegetables.  Learn to enjoy being slightly hungry much of the time.

That feeling becomes connected with that feeling that you're on the road to permanent great health and longevity - that you're about to join the healthiest people on the planet.

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When you're young - say in your twenties or early thirties - it seems like you can get away with eating whatever you want to eat.  In general, it's true.

But many young people have already begun to experience chronic illness, and it's primarily due to lack of exercise and poor diet.

Even if you aren't yet becoming sick, do yourself a huge favor by realizing that youth doesn't last forever unless you plan for the fact that the years easily turn into decades.  As I approach my seventieth birthday it seems as though the youthful years were taking place maybe just 5 or 10 years ago.

There are lots of folks of every age who are now involved with exercise gyms, such as 24-Hour Fitness.  That business is very successful for good reason.

Unfortunately there are many more who are overweight and even obese.

Leg exercise is of such great importance for you and for everyone who still has the use of their legs that it can't be emphasized too much.

Have you known older folks who complain about their legs being stiff, and who find it difficult to get up from a chair? 

So many seniors walk in pain.  The painful shuffle of old age almost seems characteristic of old age.  We've actually come to expect it.

When you're involved in regular leg exercise, you're also involved in exercising most of the rest of your body.  You can plan on certain regular activities or habits for leg exercise that can be done throughout every day.

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One of the most beneficial is stair climbing.  Using the stairs whenever possible is great exercise, easy to incorporate with everyday activity.

Do knees wear out?  How about ankles, or elbows?  Hip joints?

Not if you're eating correctly and involving yourself in leg exercise.

I talk to a lot of people around my age and younger who say their knees are shot.  Just today I talked with a friend and colleague who said the cartilage in his knees is mostly gone.  He's sure it's a hereditary thing compounded by the fact that he's had to spend several decades working on his feet on concrete floors.

Heredity may have little or nothing to do with it.

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While it's still conventional wisdom to assume that your genes lock you into certain conditions having to do with your physical health, some biologists and other scientists are saying it ain't so.

Bruce Lipton is a cell biologist who tells us in great style that heredity has little to do with most physical problems experienced by us as modern men and women.

According to Dr. Lipton and others, dietary and other personal behavioral habits are the determining factors, usually passed from one generation to the next just as names and mannerisms move along family lines.  Belief systems usually fall into the same category.

What we believe about our physical bodies is usually directly tied to the rest of our belief system.

So, if you believe that your body gets worn out and becomes decrepit with old age, that's pretty much exactly what will happen.

But if you are very active and have found that your body - including your legs - stays in great condition even as you age, you will most likely keep your great condition into your latter years - whether latter years means seventies, eighties, nineties or some yet-to-be-determined 3-digit number.

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In order for that to happen, you will develop a great fondness for exercise - daily exercises of various types, but especially aerobic exercises.

For a while, I wore a wrist type of heart monitor, and tried to keep the heart rate below 125 or 130.  Several years ago when I was running almost daily, it was necessary to slow down some  in order to keep the heart rate down.

Now I do a combination of running and bike riding, which is very enjoyable and highly beneficial for the legs and joints.  If there's snow and ice on the ground, I just leave the bike at home.

Bike riding is not only great leg exercise, it's also an amazing activity for maintaining your love of life.  It reminds you of those carefree days of your childhood when you could jump on the bike and pedal yourself nearly anywhere you wanted to go.

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Running is a bit more strenuous, yet it's a great substitute for bike riding when there's ice or snow on the ground.  I'm sure many of my older friends and acquaintances would hesitate to go out and run on snow  or ice, but if the outdoor temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind's not blowing, it should be fine to run on ice or snow.

Assuming you're confident of your ability to keep your balance.

Running on a slick surface requires a little different approach.  Essentially it just involves being more careful to come straight down with each step - carefully avoiding allowing the vector of your weight to be anything other than straight down.  It's not hard, really.  Just use a shorter stride, and stay relaxed and alert.

There's quite a bit of difference of opinion as to the best way to run, with some experts insisting on heel first, others on mid-foot, and still others advocating ball of the foot or toes first.  Now it seems that the consensus has become more dominantly in favor of coming down on the ball of the foot.

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Until recently, I always found it easier to just come down on the heel first - but that may have been because of the running shoes.  Now I find that making an effort to run on the balls of my feet produces much less strain on the ankles and knees.

Also, I seem to run a little faster with less effort - so the activity is more aerobic.

Certain other leg exercises are also beneficial.

I like to do squats while holding light hand weights - starting with 11 or 12 squats with 15 pound weights in each hand, then 14 or 15 reps with 12 pounds per hand, then 16 or 17 reps with 10 pounds per hand.  The squats don't have to be deep - I usually go far enough to have my thighs parallel to the floor each time.

Leg curls on the weight machine are also great for increasing strength and flexibility.  We have a weight machine at home in our lower level.  It gets used every day - mostly for leg exercises.

Having the privilege of living in Colorado near the Rocky Mountains, we find mountain hiking to be another wonderful leg exercise.  We're not able to do it as often as we'd like, but we've enjoyed a lot of great hikes during the 40 years we've lived in this beautiful mountainous State.

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Years ago when we first began mountain hiking at high altitudes, we endured some pain in the legs.  But now, we rarely notice any pain or  discomfort after the occasional long hikes.

I think the fact that our eating habits have drastically changed has a lot to do with it.  All the various kinds of leg exercise we're involved with is also very valuable.

The medical establishment has done us all a huge disservice by making it seem normal to become crippled as we age.  It's not just the medical folks, though.  The media and even the entertainment industry has had a part in convincing us that our bodies - especially our legs - just wear out.

Check  out my page on knee replacement surgery.  There's some evidence that contrary to popular belief, under the right conditions we humans can grow new cartilage in our knees.

I can already hear a lot of medical folks proclaiming dogmatically that it's impossible.

The old wives' tail about legs, knees and cartilage wearing out can be refuted by many of us who have been running, riding, walking and hiking for 6 or more decades still with no pain or discomfort.  But there's no doubt that diet has a lot to do with it, too.

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I've covered the necessary dietary aspects extensively on the knee replacement surgery page- as well as on several of the nutritional pages.

The Balanced Diet page is short and to the point.

Another relatively short page with some great dietary information is the Alzheimer's Treatment page page.

More valuable information can be found on the Nutritious Foods page.

If you prefer to keep leg exercise at the simplest level you can't go wrong with daily walking - but make it a priority.  Do it every day, rain or  shine.  Lots of indoor shopping malls provide great places to walk if it's just too cold outside.

Return to Physical Exercises from Leg Exercise.