25 Tue

Walking doesn’t strengthen your legs

Walking doesn’t strengthen your legs

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI


The other day, a patient came in to see me wondering why her legs weren’t getting any stronger even though she was walking 2-3 miles everyday.  She had arthritis, weak hips and legs,and wanted to get stronger, but was puzzled why she didn’t feel any results even though she was walking around every day.  I told her that walking alone doesn’t strengthen the muscles that she needed to target and get stronger.

Walking is a good exercise in itself.  It can be a good aerobic exercise if you’re walking at a good pace for 15-30 minutes.  And I always say that any movement and exercise is better than nothing at all.  But movement itself is only half the equation if you’re looking to get stronger in key areas.

Walking requires hip and leg strength, but also core stability.  As babies, we first learn to roll, then to sit, and then to walk.  Not only does it take strength to do all those things, but core stability and coordination.  As we age, we may find ourselves in “immobility ruts” where we sit for 8-10 hours a day or longer and we lose our mobility and strength.  If we become weaker in the hips and legs, joint problems can happen.  To correct this we have to do something more than just walking.

Walking doesn’t take your legs and hips into ranges of motion that would increase flexibility, and the same can be said for strengthening.  There isn’t the required overloading of muscle tissue that can cause changes in strength.  To properly strengthen a muscle, you need to go through a full range of motion and overload it with resistance, and you don’t need fancy machines to do it.

Let’s talk about three key exercises that will take you 5 minutes to do at home to strengthen your legs and hips so that you can have less pain with walking: bridging, squats, and sidelying hip lifts.

I’ve covered squat before in other posts, so I’ll cover bridging and sidelying hip lifts. First, bridging is done lying on your back as shown:

Bridging exercise

Keep your core stable and pelvis level as you raise your hips up, making a straight line from your knees, to your hips, and to your shoulders.

The other exercise is the sidelying hip lift, or hip abduction:

Sidelying leg lift

The important thing with this exercise is to make sure your top hip and knee are straight and in line with your trunk, don’t let that leg come forward when you lift.  Think about lifting the heel up and back, and that will keep you in better alignment.

Do each exercise 10-15 reps each and 2-3 sets.  Try these exercises to strengthen your hips and legs and help decrease your pain with walking.  But remember, if an exercise hurts, it may be a sign of something serious, so consult your physiotherapist before proceeding.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitialPhotos.net

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