Building leg muscle can make walking easier as you age, says study

As you get older your muscle mass decreases but working to maintain muscle mass could make walking feel easier

Elderly man walks with power up a slight incline
(Image credit: Getty)

It is totally normal for our bodies to decline the older we get. You might find completing daily tasks more challenging or that you have to do things slower, such as walking.

There is nothing wrong with slowing down but there are a few interventions that older people can take to make sure they don't lose mobility altogether and can still enjoy the freedom of walking without pain. Some like to take the best supplements for joints to help ease any pain.

However, a study published in the Journal of Physiology was carried out to find out how walking can be made easier for older adults. So the research team looked into what it is that makes elderly people walk slower and use up energy less efficiently when they walk.

The scientists used advanced computer simulations for the research and discovered that physiological changes, i.e. loss of muscle mass and strength among the elderly explains why older people develop a slower walking pace.

They also found that slowing down walking speed could have more to do with muscle fatigue rather than energy economy among older adults, which again is related to muscle-related changes in physiology.

Adults workout together outdoors

(Image credit: Getty)

The scientists behind this study think that reversing the physiological changes could be one of the few effective ways of improving the experience of walking for the elderly. 

The most obvious way to build muscle mass is to increase your physical activity and research has shown that it is never too late to get fit and build muscle.

A second study published in the Frontiers in Physiology journal recruited a group of male adults aged between 60 and 80, eight of which participants were defined as "untrained older male", meaning they were active but didn't fulfill any structured exercise before the study.

The remaining seven were recognized as "male master endurance athletes" which meant that they kept up with consistent endurance training at least twice a week for twenty years before the study.

Each category engaged in weight training and were given isotope tracers (something that can track protein growth) after which the scientists then collected muscle biopsies. The results revealed both groups of participants had equal capacity to build muscle after exercise.

This goes to show that it is never too late to reverse certain physical changes in your body as you age. But it is important to not put yourself at risk of injury.

If you are looking to build muscle in your legs and make walking a little easier for yourself then you can try fit in some thigh strengthening movements such as squats to your day-to-day. You can also add some light resistance with a best resistance band to help maximize results.

Finally, if you are out walking often make sure you wear comfortable and supportive shoes for walking to avoid any joint pain and to reduce your risk of injury.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.