Treadmill Walking Workout Plan for Seniors

Seniors can build fitness and health on the treadmill

Seniors Workout on the Treadmill
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Walking on the treadmill is an excellent way for seniors to stay active. With 30 minutes a day of brisk treadmill walking, you can be well on your way to meeting the recommended daily physical activity to reduce your health risks and maintain fitness. Regular brisk walking is also part of the exercise plan for living with diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure.

Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program if you haven't been exercising or you have health concerns. Here is how to get started.

What Treadmill Should You Use?

You should use a treadmill that feels sturdy and doesn't have any wobble when you use it. If you use a treadmill at a gym or fitness center, they are likely to be of commercial grade and well-built. While a walking pace doesn't require as powerful of a motor as a running pace, your weight is also a factor. If you weigh under 200 pounds, look for a treadmill with at least a 2.0 CHP motor. If you weigh more, look for at least 2.5 CHP and check the user weight limit listed for that model. Take that into consideration if you are buying a home treadmill.

Treadmill Workout Shoes and Clothing

You should wear athletic shoes when you walk on the treadmill. Your walking shoes should be flexible. Wear clothing that is loose enough so you can walk easily, but take care that the pant legs are not so long that they might catch in the belt of the treadmill.

Getting Started on the Treadmill

Take a few moments to get acquainted with the treadmill each time you use it, especially if you use more than one model at the fitness center. Locate the on/off control and the emergency stop. Often there is a clip you should attach to your shirt or waistband so that the treadmill will stop if you stumble or fall. Learn how to use the controls that increase and decrease the speed and incline.

Start the treadmill at the slowest speed possible while you are standing on the treadmill straddling the belt with your feet on the sides (this is called the deck). Hold the handrails for balance as you step onto the treadmill and while you are getting used to the speed of the belt.

Letting Go of the Handrails

If you normally use an assistive device for walking, you may need to use the handrails on the treadmill the entire time (everyone should use them to get on and off the moving belt). You might discuss this with a physical therapist, your doctor, or an athletic trainer to see if it's appropriate to try to walk hands-free.

You should walk without holding onto the handrails if you normally walk unassisted. Treadmill walking should build your balance and stability for walking during your usual daily tasks. It's harder to build those skills if you hold onto the handrails through your workout. Holding on may even cause some aches and pains. It is fine to hold onto the handrail pulse sensor to do a heart rate check.

Depending on their position, using handrails can also result in poor walking posture. If your doctor, therapist, or trainer recommends walking hands-free, walk at a speed that allows you to let go of the handrails (rather than at a faster speed where you feel you must hold on). You may need to practice to kick the treadmill-gripping habit.

Treadmill Walking Workout for Seniors

Start with the treadmill at a slow pace while you get on. Adjust your posture as you start walking. You want to walk with an upright posture, not leaning forward. Suck in your gut, but maintain the natural curve in your spine.

Your chin should be parallel to the ground and eyes forward, focusing across the room. Roll your shoulders back and drop them to open up your chest so you can take full deep breaths. Bend your arms 90 degrees and let them swing naturally back and forth opposite of your stride.

Warm up for a couple of minutes at an easy pace before you increase the speed. If at first you can only walk at an easy pace the entire workout, that is what you should do. But if you can walk faster, gradually increase the pace at 0.5 miles per hour each minute until you reach a brisk walking pace where you can walk confidently, without holding onto the handrails, but are breathing harder and even sweating. You are exercising your heart and lungs now, and sending more blood to your brain and all other parts of your body.

Maintain this speed for at least 10 minutes. If you find you are out of breath or a little unsteady, reduce the speed until you are more confident. After 10 minutes, reduce the speed to an easy pace for a cool down of two to three minutes.

Don't worry if your brisk walking pace seems slower than you would like. As long as you are breathing heavier, you are going fast enough to be at a moderate exercise intensity. If the treadmill has a pulse monitor, check it to see if you are between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate. Depending on your age, that is between 80 and 115 beats per minute. If you can pick up the pace enough to a vigorous level, that is also good.

Treadmill Walking Workout Plan for Seniors

The recommended amount of cardiovascular exercise for seniors over age 65 is 30 minutes per day, five days per week. If you can't do all 30 minutes in one session, it is permissible to break up that 30 minutes. Even 5- or 10-minute bouts of exercise count.

You should also do strength training exercise two to three days each week, with eight to 10 repetitions. You can do this exercise on the same days you enjoy treadmill walking, or on alternate days. Try a 20-minute strength training workout for seniors or a dumbbell strength training workout for seniors.

You should also take 10 minutes extra on each exercise day to stretch your major muscle and tendon groups. If you are at risk for falls, you should include balance exercise three times per week. Also check with your doctor whether treadmill walking is advisable for you.

Benefits of Treadmill Walking for Seniors

The good news is that walking on the treadmill regularly may also help you maintain your mobility and balance. You will be burning calories and keeping your metabolic rate boosted. This is part of a healthy weight management program.

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