Fitness Tips

Treadmill Workouts for Seniors – Lowest Impact Exercises For Older Folks

When I ask my older clients why they chose to hire me as a coach and trainer, they often answer that they had no other choice. They know it’s important to keep fit and healthy as you get older, but can’t seem to find any workouts targeted for them online.

This isn’t for a lack of trying or being tech illiterate; These are smart, tech-savvy folk who have scoured the web looking for resources to guide their time in the gym.

The reason they can’t find workouts for seniors is a lot simpler actually, it’s because there aren’t any.

Most, if not all, of workouts, guides, and information out there is targeted to a younger audience.

However, all of that knowledge is useless because seniors simply don’t have the physical capabilities of going through crazy gym workouts that take hours and leave you covered in sweat.

That’s why, after receiving countless messages asking for advice, I decided to compile the best treadmill workouts for seniors I could find and some that I have personally crafted up.

Before we start though, I will recommend that if you are in search of a senior treadmill, to actually not search for that but instead get a cushioned low impact treadmill. I have compile a list of the best treadmills with the most cushion here.

These are easiest on the knees and joints making it perfect of seniors.

Best Treadmill Workouts for Seniors

Listed below are the most effective and low impact treadmill workouts that are designed for seniors

Workout 1 – The 28 minutes workout

This is the first workout I give to any older folk who hire me as a trainer. It’s very adaptable for any skill level and as you might have guessed, it only takes 28 minutes from start to finish. That makes it a great option for people who aren’t used to working out for hours on end or who are out of shape.

To start, hop on a treadmill and warm up with a one minute walk. The pace should be brisk but comfortable. I tell my clients to walk like they’ve got someplace to be. It’s not a Sunday stroll.

Once that’s done, up the pace and perform a 5 minute jog. The speed should be moderate enough that you can talk while you do it. If you feel that you’re running out of breath, you’re going too fast.

Here’s where the challenge lies, once your 5 minute jog is done, take a 30 second sprint. This should be a hard pace that makes you put in some effort. Once 30 seconds go by, go back to comfortable jogging for 90 seconds.

Repeat that cycle 9 times, which should take you 18 minutes if you did it right. It may seem easy on paper, but trust me, but by cycle 9 you’re gonna be counting the seconds to stop.

The final step is to cool down with an easy, 4 minute walk or jog, depending on how drained the interval training left you. There you have it! 28 minutes and you’re good to go!

Workout 2 – The Barefoot Walk

This is a great addition to any treadmill workout or even a standalone exercise that can help prevent common issues for the elderly when using treadmills, such as back and foot pain.

However, this one should only be performed if you own the equipment yourself. For safety reasons, I would avoid trying this one in a commercial gym. You don’t know who else has been using the machine and what kind of bugs you may pick up.

It’s pretty simple really, just walk on your treadmill, but this time instead of wearing treadmill shoes do it barefoot. You can even jog! The tread is not rough enough to cause any damage so you won’t have to worry about blisters or sores.

By being barefoot instead of wearing shoes, you help retrain your foot muscles, that have been atrophied from years and years of wearing shoes. This, in turn, will improve your posture and help relieve tension.

Not only that but by not wearing soles, your heels are closer to the ground, which means the impact of bouncing on the tread will be absorbed mostly by your calves instead of your back and knees, helping avoid back pain while training your legs further.

That’s pretty much it! This can be incorporated into other workouts by just performing them barefoot instead. However, I would advise taking it slow and letting your feet muscles get used to the work before jumping into the high-intensity stuff.

Workout 3 – Incline Interval Training

As we get older, so do our bodies, and sometimes you realize that your joints and tendons aren’t what they used to be. Unfortunately, running is a very high impact activity for our knees, ankles, hips, and back. Think about it, you’re basically landing all your weight on one leg over and over!

This means that many of my clients can’t perform most treadmill workouts without having to deal with inflamed knees, bothersome backs and ankles, so I came up with a high intensity, low impact workout for them, and I’m sharing it with you too!

As you might have guessed from the heading, this is achieved by changing the incline settings on your treadmill, most treadmills come with incline settings nowadays. This way you simulate walking on a hill, which will put greater stress on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, without needing to run.

To perform this workout, first, walk without an incline for five minutes. This is the warm-up phase so no need to go all out, but keep it brisk. As I said above, walk like you’ve got somewhere to be.

Once the warm-up is done. Just up the incline as far as you can go while not holding on to the treadmill. You shouldn’t be falling off, but it should be hard, as if you’re walking up a steep hill.

Walk on an incline for 30 seconds, then dial it one degree down and walk on the lower incline for 30 seconds and lower it again, then 30 seconds, and lower it again. You get the gist.

Once you reach zero, dial it all the way back up and start over. The goal is to get around 20 minutes of walking while having your heart rate go up and down. Depending on your treadmill, this should take one or two cycles tops.

Best Senior Treadmill Workout Tips

Before you hop on the treadmill and start going wild, there are a few things you should keep in mind to avoid the most common treadmill mistakes. This is especially important for those who are just getting into fitness and are not used to treadmills and how they work.

treadmill workout tips for seniors

Safety First

Something as simple as tripping or falling can spell the end of your fitness journey before it even starts. This is true for everyone, but especially so for seniors since as we get older we are more vulnerable to breaks and sprains.

This is why you should familiarize yourself with your treadmill safety features. While this varies for each machine out there, there’s one thing you’re likely to encounter no matter what kind of treadmill you get. Whether it be a walking treadmill that fits under your bed, or a bigger more professional treadmill they will all have a magnetic key.

You’ll find that every treadmill out there has a little pin, usually bright colored, that is attached to the front panel and has a string dangling down. This is the mag key.

This isn’t just for looks, you’re supposed to attach that string to your body, without leaving a lot of leeway. This way, in case you fall, the magnet will pop off and the treadmill will stop. Once you hit the ground you’ll be greeted by the soft tread, instead of a moving platform that will launch you off!

Use Heart Rate Monitors!

treadmill workout tip for senior

Heart Rate monitors are a great tool for any athlete. There’s great power in knowing exactly how much effort you’re putting in. It can help you determine your pace and speed more accurately so you can gauge if you are improving on your stamina and endurance and fitness overall.

For seniors, however, they are especially important, since as we age we are at much higher risk of heart conditions from overexertion. You measure your heart rate in many different ways, wristbands, chest straps and even with some treadmills that have metallic handles.

This is where the target heart rate comes in. Some more advanced machines will calculate it automatically but in any case, it’s a very simple formula.

First, you need to find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. This is the number you should not exceed when working out unless you’re very experienced.

Once you have your maximum heart rate, you can calculate your desired percentage based on how much effort you want to put in. Say you want a tough workout, then you should apply this formula.

Maximum heart rate x 0.85 =  Target Heart Rate.

If you want a lighter workout, just swap out 0.85 for 0.5 to aim for 50% of your heart rate instead.

As an example, let’s crunch the numbers for a 65 year old athlete:

220 – 65 = 155 Maximum Heart Rate (DO NOT EXCEED THIS NUMBER)

155 x 0.85 = 132 Target Heart Rate at 85% effort.

155 x 0.5 = 77.5 Target Heart Rate at 50% effort.

There you have it! Just plug your age and desired effort and you’ll know what to aim for!

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Ben Mayz

Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now. My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future. I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics. My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics. Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward. You can learn more about Fitlifefanatics on our About Page