by Kate Maliha, MA (HKin)
Getting older often brings unwanted changes to the way we walk, including the tendency to walk a little slower and take shorter, more frequent steps. This happens for a variety of reasons, including reduced strength, mobility, and power in the lower body, as well as changes to balance. While it is important to address each of these areas individually, you can also do an overall drill for speed and stride length.
Stride and Speed Exercise:
Find a public park or school track with a straightaway of at least 30 feet (9 m). The path should be level and clear of obstacles. Many malls having walking programs and therefore a long mall or other type of hallway can suit the same purpose for those who need to exercise indoors. You will need proper walking or exercise shoes and a timer. Spend at least 10 minutes warming up with gentle and progressive cardiovascular exercise before beginning this drill, which can be physically challenging. Performing the drill without a proper warm up can cause injury. Stand at one end of the 30-foot path. Start your timer, and time how many seconds it takes you to reach the other end of your 30-foot path. Mark the number down so you can refer to it later. Now turn around.
Next, going as quickly as you are able to safely, count how many steps you take to get back to the starting line of your 30-foot path. Over the course of 4-6 weeks, you can work on decreasing the number of steps you take, and increasing your speed by decreasing your time. You may want to perform this drill twice a week, focusing on speed one day and lengthening your stride (taking longer steps) on the other day.
By the end of the 4-6 week period, time yourself again and count your number of steps in order to see how much progress you have made. You will be amazed at the difference!
Share your results with us by emailing your times and your step counts (along with the changes/progress made) to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we will post your achievements on our “Successes” page on our website.
Please consult a medical professional before starting this or any other exercise program. This article does not constitute medical advice.
Kate Maliha, MA (HKin) has a Master’s degree in Human Kinetics and has conducted aging research at the University of British Columbia. She is the owner of Love Your Age, a fitness company specializing in the exercise needs of seniors.