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  • Christina Hunt

6 Leg Strengthening Exercises for People with Lung Conditions


Building and maintaining leg strength is such an important part of your physical well-being when you have a lung condition. I often make the comparison that strong legs are like the trunk of a tree. The trunk supports and gives a firm foundation for a tree to grow and flourish. Without that strong base the tree would topple. For the body, the legs take on a similar role. We use our legs throughout the day to do practically everything. From standing as we get dressed and ready in the morning, getting out of a chair, standing up off the toilet, climbing stairs, walking… the list is endless. It makes sense that my next fitness post be about strengthening the legs. I wanted to start off by giving you a few basic leg exercises that you could do at a gym or at home. Without the use of any special equipment and only requiring a chair, you can accomplish all of these exercises. Sure, there are a ton of leg strengthening exercises that you can do, but beginning with a few will allow you to make some progress and see results.


As a disclaimer, you should check with your doctor to make sure it is okay that you start any new exercise routine. If you have joint issues in your hips or knees, make sure you consult with your orthopedist to make sure there are no restrictions that may interfere with trying these leg strengthening exercises. If you experience ANY PAIN while performing these exercises, STOP IMMEDIATELY and let your physician know.


Before you begin, if you haven’t read my arm strengthening blog, I want to go over a few basic “rules” that I give all my pulmonary rehab patients before performing any exercise.


1. “If it hurts, don’t do it” – If you have range of motion issues in your joints, doing a weight lifting exercise that causes you pain is not going help resolve this, in fact you may cause more problems in your joint if the range of motion issue isn’t resolved first. If you experience any pain while lifting weights or doing these leg strengthening exercises, STOP IMMEDIATELY and notify your doctor for recommendations. DO NOT keep going. “No pain, no gain” IS NOT our focus!!!

2. “Go slow” – Going slow is a great way to make sure you are performing the exercise with proper technique and will ultimately prevent any injury or sprain. If you haven’t been performing any leg strengthening exercises in your exercise routine, start by only doing a handful of repetitions each day then slowly work up in number of repetitions.

3. “Breathe” – We all have a tendency to hold our breath while lifting weights or doing anything strenuous. Make sure you use your breath to help fuel your muscles and breathe in and blow out through each repetition. This is another great opportunity to practice using a breathing technique (See Breathing Techniques Blog).


With all of these exercises, I encourage you to use a chair (as shown) for balance. I encourage this because it reduces your risk for falling. After a while you may not feel that you need the chair quite as much but it’s a great “insurance policy” to have around so why not be as safe as you possibly can?!


***Remember to wear proper footwear to give yourself good balance and to prevent slipping or skidding.


Lung patients need to make sure they rest between each exercise. You may be surprised how just performing one of these exercises can increase your heart rate and cause breathlessness. Make sure you give your breathing time to stabilize between each exercise that you do.


Now that you have these wonderful tips… Let’s get those legs stronger!


Exercise #1 – Sit to Stand – I am starting with what I feel is the hardest exercise first because it works several muscle groups. Getting up to stand from a sitting position can become very difficult for someone with a lung condition. By performing this exercise, you are increasing strength in your hips and legs.

1. Start out by standing directly in front of chair. (Inhale)

2. Exhale as you slowly lower yourself down until you are just above the seat (You can place your hands on your knees if you need extra support.)

3. Inhale as you stand up.

Repeat 10 times.



Exercise #2 – Calf Raises – Increasing your calf strength will help you as you walk and climb hills.

1. Stand behind a chair (Inhale)

2. Hold on to a chair. Exhale as your raise up on your toes with both feet, keeping your back straight (For added difficulty, you can hold this position for a few seconds)

3. Inhale as you lower down.

Repeat 10 times



Exercise #3 – Hip Abductor / Side Hip Raises – This exercise strengthens your hips. It will assist you in walking and help you step around objects that may be in your way.

*Start off slowly so that if you have joint damage you don’t further cause it to worsen

1. Stand behind a chair (Inhale)

2. Holding on to the chair, (Exhale) Raise your right leg out to the side as high as comfortable

3. (Inhale) Slowly lower your leg back down

Repeat 10 time and then repeat with the opposite leg



Exercise #4 – Partial or Mini Squats – This exercise will help you not only increase your leg strength but can also help you with hip flexibility. You utilize these muscles when getting up from a sitting position, balance, and climbing stairs.

1. Stand behind a chair (Inhale)

2. Hold onto the chair, (Exhale) slowly bend both knees keeping your back straight and your heels on the floor.

3. Inhale as you stand back up.

Repeat 10 times



Exercise #5 – Hip Extension / Back Leg Raise – This exercise is great for increasing strength in your hamstrings, hips, and buttocks. This will assist you when you are walking as well as aid in improving your stability.

1. Stand behind a chair. (Inhale)

2. Hold on to the chair. Exhale as you lift your right leg behind you while keeping your knee straight.

3. Inhale as you lower your leg back down.

Repeat 10 times then repeat with the opposite leg.



Exercise #6 – Knee Extension – This exercise will increase leg and hip strength. This will aid in lifting your legs as you climb the stairs, get out of a car, and provide you with better stability.

1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. (Inhale)

2. Exhale as you raise one leg up at a time holding it for 1-2 seconds.

3. Inhale as you slowly lower it back down.

Repeat 10 times with each leg



Some other tips and hints:


  • You may experience some mild muscle soreness especially if you are new to strength training. This soreness should not prevent you from doing your daily activities. Give yourself plenty of time to recover from your workout. If the soreness is more severe, cut your workout back the next time you exercise.

  • As you build your strength, I encourage you to increase the number of repetitions of each exercise that you do. You can also use a set of ankle weights if you prefer to add another level of difficulty.

  • Remember to drink plenty of water throughout your workout routine as well as after exercise. Water will keep you hydrated and help to flush your muscle groups if you have any soreness after exercise.

Thanks for Reading!

:) Christina


Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!


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