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Is "weak legs" in the elderly a real problem?

My mom keeps complaining that her legs feel weak and that is why she cannot exercise. Multiple medical visits have not revealed any health problems other than high blood pressure. She is in her early 70's, very overweight and has always had an excuse for why she couldn't lose weight. Is this another excuse?
Status: Open    Jan 01, 2016 - 07:44 AM

Senior Health & Nutrition

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Expert Answers

Jan 17, 2016 - 09:55 AM


My first question would be does your mom want to exercise? A couple suggestions if she does and does not feel comfortable because she is worried about her leg strength:

1. Swimming: there are a lot of community programs geared toward the older population with specially trained instructors to help gain strength in the pool. This is a great way to work on cardiovascular fitness and strength without the fear of falling due to weak legs. They use floatation devices as well if needed.

2. Silver sneakers programs - these are programs that are usually a part of community centers or gyms that focus on exercise for the older population in a group setting. Exercises are directed by a personal trainer trained to help older adults and modify exercises to their specific ability

3. Senior Center exercise classes

4. Home exercise programs for the older population - there are all sorts of exercise DVDs or even on YouTube geared toward the older population. There are sitting exercise programs as well to strengthen and work on their cardiovascular fitness in sitting.

5. Elderly yoga, tai chi, pilates classes or videos

Exercise may be intimidating, especially if they have not done it before or she just may not know where to start, not know what to do or even HOW to exercise, especially with weak legs. Group exercise is great for accountability, camaraderie and direction.

Best of luck!


Jan 16, 2016 - 06:11 AM

There are several items that people need to realize regarding this issue. 1. Obese people of any age have problems walking, let alone running, because their thighs rub against each other and can cause "ulcers" (not the cancerous kind), meaning they can litterly rub the skin between their thighs raw. This issue may be embarassing for your mom and might even become a medical isssue. Non-treatment of this injury could lead to other issues, and, remember, elder folks take longer to heal. If you have a "really close" member of your family or a personal friend who is obese, you might try to determine, from them, what the issues are. Word your question poliely, and hopefully you'll still have a friend and a family Thanksgiving meal, etc., to share, later in the year! 2. High blood pressure does make you dizzy, nausus, and does give you a feeling of wanting to fall. DON'T CLIMB LADDERS OR GET UP ON YOUR ROOF, AGAIN! She should be using a cane. I am stunned, if her primary care provider (PCP) has not recommended she obtain one, by prescription, (meaning, she goes to a physical theropist (PT) and learns how to use it). Most elderly, today it seems, just go and pick one up in a store, (as a prescription is not required for the purchase of a cane) with no education as to the proper height it should be placed at or even the type of handle (think about people with arthritis with gripping problems, and what they can "handle" is more practical or comfortable for them. Any competant PT will talk with her about falling issues, teach how to stand up and sit down. and make sure she even knows how to transet up and down stairs. It takes about 1/2 hour to learn these issues. Remembering them is usually the problem, should the patient have memory issues, or just becomes lazy. Remember, too, for those who will not go to a PT. YOU CAN DO SERIOUS DAMAGE TO YOUR BODY if you just purchase and use a cane without being properly trained in its use. Also, all costs for the cane, doctors appontments, cost of device and even transportaation to and from your appointments and to the pharmcy or store you go to (miles, included) IS tax deductable. Writing off your medical expenses is a DEDCTION on your income taxes. Best of luck to your mom, and to you, her caregiving and loving daughter!

Source: Source? Personal experience!

Comments (1) | New Comment

By mexicoturtle on Jul 08, 2016 - 09:58 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

this is very good advise. I can't tell you how many residents come into a nursing home for rehab and the first thing rehab aides see is that their canes are not right for them. The residents love the new canes they are fitted for or if the end up being transferred to a walker they seems to feel safer after a few lessons .

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Jan 19, 2016 - 06:07 AM

My mother also complains of "weak legs". She is not overweight, but she has fallen in the past and broken bones in the fall. My mother also did everything possible to avoid exercise. Some gentle probing on my part revealed that she is afraid she will fall again. It is possible that your mother is afraid of falling. She may visualize herself lying helpless on the floor and, because of her weight, may be worried and embarrassed about that. She may visualize the need to have muliple people help her up. I'm not an expert, but this could be part of the issue.

Source: wanda

Jan 21, 2016 - 03:59 AM

My Mom was in her early 80's when she complained of her "legs feeling weak." She moved in with my husband and me 7 years ago, and we tended to overfunction for her because of this and other complaints. Her only physical problems were high blood pressure and being overweight. She also has dementia and schizophrenia. She refused to use a walker because she was embarrassed, and then after the 6th fall, she finally changed her mind. We had a wonderful physical therapist through home therapy, and we could not believe what she was capable of with his encouragement! (She loves male attention!) We have faithfully encouraged her to continue the exercise program he developed because we knew it was safe for her to do. It's as simple as doing 7 rounds around the house 3 times a day using her walker and doing chair exercises. The hospital physical therapist added having her hold the kitchen counter and alternate balancing on one leg for 15 seconds. Activity, activity, activity! My Mom is 90 now, approaching 91...still exercising every day. Even though she's still overweight (she loves to eat), people are amazed at how strong and active she is with her walker. Of course, we have good days and bad days... but even in a homebound status, with encouragement and my own participation, she will exercise!! Hopefully, you can find what will work for your Mom.

Feb 14, 2016 - 04:33 AM

I believe your mom really has weak legs. With aging comes weak leg muscles that may cause the elder to fall. An initial fall may cause the elder to give up walking because of the fear of falling again. While it's true that exercise will help strenthen her muscles again, the will to do so is over come by the fear of falling. I suggest that passive exercises be done to her initially. A physical therapist will be a great help in this aspect.


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