Treadmill Walking Workout Plan for Seniors

Seniors Workout on the Treadmill
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Walking on the treadmill is an excellent way for seniors to stay active. Thirty minutes a day of brisk treadmill walking will help you meet the recommended daily amount of physical activity to reduce health risks and maintain fitness. Regular brisk walking is also beneficial if you are living with diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure.

Get Started With Treadmill Walking

Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program if you haven't been exercising or you have health concerns. Your healthcare provider can provide guidelines personalized for you if you are managing a medical condition.

It's also important to have proper equipment, understand the features of the treadmill you'll be using, and practice good form. These steps will help you to stay safe and make your workout more enjoyable.

Choose a Treadmill

Use a treadmill that feels sturdy and doesn't have any wobble when you walk on it. Treadmills at a gym or fitness center are likely to be of commercial grade and well-built. If you choose to buy a treadmill for home use, check that it runs well and that the safety features work properly—especially if you buy a used model.

The best treadmill for you may depend on the features you desire. Look for speed and incline ranges and other handy features such as an on-board fan, a quiet motor, or an entertainment screen. Your weight may also be 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.

Get Proper Gear

You'll want proper walking footwear and comfortable, breathable workout clothing to make your walking session more enjoyable. 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 could catch in the belt of the treadmill.

Learn Safety Features

Take a few moments to get acquainted with the treadmill before your first workout. 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.

Practice Good Form

Become aware of your walking form and posture. You want to walk with an upright posture, not leaning forward. Maintain a strong core (midsection), but keep 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.

Consider Handrail Use

Use the handrails to get on and off the treadmill belt and avoid holding on while you are walking. However, if you normally use an assistive device for walking, you may need to use the handrails during the entire workout. Consult with a physical therapist, your healthcare provider, or an athletic trainer to see if it's appropriate for you to walk hands-free.

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. You may need to practice to kick the treadmill-gripping habit.

Treadmill Workout for Seniors

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, do that.

But if you can walk faster, gradually increase the pace by 0.5 miles per hour each minute until you reach a brisk walking pace. Don't worry if your 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.

A brisk walking pace is one where you can walk confidently without holding onto the handrails. You should be breathing deeply and may even be sweating.

Maintain this speed for at least 10 minutes. You are exercising your heart and lungs now, and sending more blood to your brain and all other parts of your body. If you find you are out of breath or a little unsteady, reduce the speed until you are more confident.

If the treadmill has a heart rate 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.

After 10 minutes (or your desired duration), reduce the speed to an easy pace for a cool-down of two to three minutes. When the cool-down is complete, bring the treadmill to a stop and step off the belt.

Total Workout Plan for Seniors

The recommended amount of cardiovascular exercise for people over age 65 is 30 minutes per day, five days per week. If you can't do all 30 minutes at once, break up that 30 minutes into shorter sessions. Even 5- or 10-minute bouts of exercise count.

You should also do strength training exercise two to three days each week. You can do this exercise on the same days you enjoy treadmill walking, or on alternate days. Try a 20-minute strength training workout or a dumbbell strength training workout, both designed for older people.

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 (and check with your doctor to find out if treadmill walking is advisable for you).

A Word From Verywell

Walking on a treadmill regularly can help you to maintain strength and heart health. It may also help you maintain your mobility and balance. You will be burning calories and keeping your metabolic rate boosted. This workout can be part of a healthy lifestyle and weight management program.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Colberg SR, Albright AL, Blissmer BJ, et al. Exercise and type 2 diabetes: American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Exercise and type 2 diabetes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(12):2282-303. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181eeb61c

  2. Buurke TJW, Lamoth CJC, van der Woude LHV, den Otter R. Handrail holding during treadmill walking reduces locomotor learning in able-bodied persons. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2019;27(9):1753-1759. doi:10.1109/TNSRE.2019.2935242

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.