Most older adults want the ability to walk as long as they possibly can. Some individuals value never using a walker, whereas others just want to keep mobile whether using a cane or walker. Unfortunately, the act of walking does not keep an older adult walking. Walking is a very complex task which places demands on musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary and nervous systems. Walking difficulty is a common, costly problem in older adults and it contributes to loss of independence, a higher rate of illness and increased mortality.
The first, most important aspect to understand is that a certain amount of leg strength is required to walk. In actuality, the more leg strength a person has the easier it for them to walk.
Of the following scenarios who do you perceive as having the strongest legs? An older adult who:
- jogs around the block
- walks around the block
- uses a cane
- uses a walker
- uses a wheelchair
Answer: The older adult who can jog around the block has significantly more strength than the person in the wheelchair. I am not saying that everyone who increases their leg strength can get back to jogging, but the stronger an older adult’s legs are, the easier it for him/her to move and be independent. Adequate leg strength lends itself to a healthier lifestyle, less prone to illness and a much higher quality of life.
Signs of Leg Weakness
Leg weakness is often displayed during walking by slow walking speeds, walking short distances, shuffling feet, bent knees, needing assistance while walking, walker use and difficulty with turns. Many, if not all of those symptoms, can be reversed if leg strength is increased.