Treadmill Walking For Seniors 2021

UPDATED, February 1, 2022

People of all ages may struggle to get the right amount of exercise. This may be especially true for older adults, who may have restrictive health conditions or may not be comfortable with certain fitness routines. Luckily, there may be a surprisingly simple potential option for such challenges: treadmill walking.

Home treadmills can be an accessible way for older adults to get cardio exercise in a potentially safer, and in a more comfortable environment (1). They may remove some of the obstacles associated with other ways to do walking workouts. For example, drive time and fees necessary to join a gym, or poor weather conditions and unsafe environments related to outdoor walks may cause unforeseen difficulty. Home treadmills may also allow loved ones to rest easy knowing there’s reliable exercise equipment readily available and accessible.

We did some research, exploring some of the options currently available, and ultimately chose what we believe are our top treadmills here.

Here’s what you need to know!

Our Top Treadmill

Treadmill For Seniors –

We searched NordicTrack and ProForm models, we compared, we crunched the numbers—and when it comes to what we believe is the top treadmill for older adults, one of our models really stands out. 

The NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill provides a comfortable yet effective workout, depending on health goals (1). It comes with expertly crafted features and functions. 

Important Features Of The EXP 7i Treadmill

A treadmill’s unique traits can either make it a good fit or a huge headache. That’s why we took a close look at all of our treadmills that we reviewed and decided the EXP 7i Treadmill’s outstanding features make it the obvious winner.

Here are just a few elements that we believe make the EXP 7i a good fit:

FlexSelect™ Cushioning

Low-impact activities, like walking, are an important part of staying in shape (2). And NordicTrack’s FlexSelect™ makes it easier than ever. The cushioned treadmill belt engages dampeners that may reduce the impact on joints frequently stressed by walking or running: the knees, ankles, and hips (3, 4). This creates a comfortable yet road-realistic walking experience.

Adjustable Incline Range

Walking on an incline can activate posterior chain muscles, which may help prevent injuries and improve posture (5). The EXP 7i Treadmill gives you the chance to strengthen these muscles with an incline range from 0% up to 12%. This mimics uphill conditions, which helps create workouts that feel almost like a real hike outdoors.

OneTouch® Controls 

Since the EXP 7i Treadmill’s adjustable features come with wide ranges, seniors need a quick way to change those workout settings without breaking form or stride. That’s where OneTouch® Controls come in. With just one touch, you can adjust their treadmill’s speed and incline to keep your workouts fully personalized and accommodating.


Handrails provide extra added support, which can translate into a more comfortable treadmill workout experience, and may give you more confidence while using the treadmill (1). The EXP 7i Treadmill’s sturdy side and front handrails provide support before, during, and after a walk.

Quick-Stop Pull Cord

The emergency stop cord is placed on the front of the treadmill dashboard. When pulled or disconnected, it quickly but smoothly stops the treadmill, no matter what speed and incline settings are used. This is an important feature because the machine slows down more gradually otherwise.

Two 2” Digitally Amplified Speakers

No matter what’s on your workout playlist, you’ll experience clear, amplified sound thanks to two speakers conveniently integrated into the EXP 7i Treadmill’s design. If your home treadmill is located in a noisy or high-traffic area, you can also connect Bluetooth® headphones to listen uninterrupted.

AutoBreeze™ Workout Fan

One of the downsides of walking outdoors is uncontrollable weather conditions. Thanks to the AutoBreeze™ Workout Fan, that won’t be a problem on the EXP 7i Treadmill. The adjustable fan helps to put you in control of your own comfort. The fan may also help reduce the risk of exercise-related heat exhaustion, which is more of a risk for adults over 65 and those with medical conditions or taking certain medications (6).

30-Day iFIT® Membership 

You may be reluctant to exercise if you don’t know what a walking workout program should look like or how to get started. Luckily, the purchase of a NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill comes with a 30-day iFIT Family Membership. This virtual training program includes guidance from personal trainers, automated incline and speed control, and walking workouts filmed in global destinations. There are also pre-programmed walking routines to take the guesswork out of workouts.

7” HD Smart Touchscreen

Since iFIT can take you to exciting locations and engage you with expert trainers, you’ll need a way to interact with all that content, which is why an LCD display can be so important. This large touchscreen provides a clear display of workout stats like speed and calories burned. It also provides a stunning entertainment option that can make treadmill exercise more enjoyable.

Smart-Response Drive System

The EXP 7i Treadmill comes with a motor built to move users through any workout, from the toughest interactive training session to the lightest stroll down the beach. The smart system responds quickly to changes in speed and incline, which should help with providing you the confidence to control your exercise.

SpaceSaver® Design With EasyLift™ Assist

This feature solves two problems that other treadmills may leave unaddressed: Space and ease of handling. The SpaceSaver® Design allows you to maximize your home space while the EasyLift™ Assist makes it far easier to lift and fold the horizontal portion of the exercise equipment. This means that the EXP 7i Treadmill can be stored out of the way, which should also help with minimizing trips or fall risks.

Integrated Tray

A tray within arm’s reach provides easy access to workout accessories like a water bottle or smartphone. 

Important Features Of Any Treadmill

The NordicTrack EXP 7i may be our top treadmill pick, but it isn’t the only one out there. We’ve reviewed other treadmills too, so you have plenty of choices. As you review each make and model, you may have questions.

Here are a few things to consider.

Treadmill Walking For Seniors 2021 –

Full-Sized Belt

A treadmill’s walking belt can come in different widths and lengths. A smaller tread belt may seem less intimidating or easier to store, but the truth is that belt size can impact a workout. For this reason, one may want to look for a belt that is at least 22 inches wide and 50 inches long and offers shock absorption (7). This type of running belt doesn’t just provide a more comfortable workout, it may also reduce the risk of trips and falls.

Adjustable Features

You need to have quick control over your speed and, if the treadmill offers it, incline. Adjustability is a must because it provides this control without limiting what you can accomplish.


A folding treadmill is attractive because it takes up less space. However, if the exercise equipment can’t be easily maneuvered—for example, with transportation wheels—it may not be the right treadmill for a given user. Accessibility is not an important consideration in terms of workout environment, but it may also provide users with a feeling of independence (1). 

Included Workout Program

An included workout program can be a huge plus for anyone. Programs like iFIT offer guidance on form, pace, speed and incline control, and even the use of other exercise equipment when available. This simplifies the task of designing a walking workout and can even help keep you motivated during their routine.

Benefits Of Treadmills

Physical activity can be beneficial for anyone (9). However, exercise—specifically treadmill walking—has some specialized benefits depending on who you are. While this is good news on its own, it also acts as a motivator that may help convince those who are reluctant to workout to pull out their walking shoes and hop on the treadmill.

This is especially important, as the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities per week (10). For people with restrictive health conditions, the recommendation is to get as much exercise as is possible, comfortable, and safe (10).

Below are a few more reasons a walking workout program and a home treadmill can be important elements of a healthy lifestyle. Bear in mind, however, that achieving the benefits of treadmill training depends on numerous factors, such as having an exercise game plan, eating healthily, exercising consistently, exercising with proper form, staying hydrated, basal metabolism, ambient temperature, weight, sex, and height.

Memory Improvement

According to research by McMaster University, aerobic exercise has the potential to enhance memory in older adults (11). Higher intensity exercise was found to be associated with greater benefits than moderate continuous training, but that doesn’t mean older adults can or should exhaust themselves on their exercise equipment just to see memory benefits (11). 

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, can be personalized to fit your fitness level and overall health goals. It also comes with plenty of benefits beyond possible memory improvement, including possible reversal of some age-related deterioration in muscle cells (12).

Depression Management

Rates of depression in older populations may be higher than in the general public (13). In fact, in a survey sponsored by the Australian government, it was suggested that 30% of Australians living in residential aged care facilities suffer from depression (13). 

The physical and mental impacts of depression can include (14, 13):

  • Poor sleep.
  • Reduced energy.
  • Body pain.
  • Irritability.
  • Aggression.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Loss of self-esteem.
  • Memory problems.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt.

Although not a treatment on its own, physical activity can be as effective as antidepressants in some cases (14). During high-intensity exercise, this may be because of the increased release of endorphins—“feel-good” chemicals (15). 

Low-intensity exercise over time, however, can have different results: Proteins called growth factors cause nerve cells to make new connections, especially in the hippocampus—the section of the brain responsible for mood regulation, learning, and memory (16).

Reduced Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

Physical activity, like walking, can strengthen the cardiovascular system (9). This system includes the heart and blood and, like many elements of the human body, benefits in numerous ways from consistent exercise (10). By raising oxygen levels in the blood, physical activity can lower one’s risk of cardiovascular diseases including (9, 17):

  • Heart attack.
  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Peripheral artery disease.
  • Carotid artery disease.

After a heart attack, regular activity can help patients recover more quickly (18). Additionally, even 30 minutes of walking per day can reduce the risk of another cardiovascular disease—stroke—by 35% and lower blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol (18, 9). 

Bone And Joint Protection

A walking workout program could also help protect bones, reducing the risk of fractures by slowing the loss of bone density (18, 9). Exercise is also an important element in preventing and treating osteoporosis, which affects an estimated 44 million Americans, or more than half of individuals over 50 (19, 20).

Bones aren’t the only things that benefit. To protect the ligaments, cartilage, and muscles that make up your joints, Harvard Health Publishing recommends walking as a low-impact exercise (21, 2).

Balance Improvements

Balance issues can become more severe with age, but there’s a simple way to combat them: walking (22). A walking workout program can help strengthen lower-body muscles and may help address vertigo (23). 

Along with muscle-strengthening exercises, walking could also help reduce the risk of falls (9). That’s significant, since an estimated one-third of adults over 65 years of age and over fall at least once a year—which can lead to fractures, head injuries, and other health issues (24).

Diabetes Prevention Or Management

Walking for 30 minutes a day can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40% (25). This is because exercise may lower blood sugar levels in the body while improving the effectiveness of insulin (9). Even after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, one can manage the disease with walking exercise (25).

Improved Sleep

A regular walking workout can help a person fall asleep more quickly and get better sleep (26). This is because exercise stimulates the brain to create hormones like melatonin, which is responsible for sleep and the circadian rhythm (27, 28). However, exercising too close to bedtime can interrupt that rhythm, so one should time his or her workouts carefully (27).

Reduced Risk Of Some Cancers

According to a study by the American Cancer Society (29), “Older Americans […] who did even a little walking at a moderate pace had a decreased risk of death compared with those who did little or no activity.” (30). 

In fact, regular physical activity like walking can help prevent or manage several cancers, including (9, 31):

  • Colon.
  • Breast.
  • Lung.
  • Colorectal.
  • Prostate.


Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that walking exercise on a home treadmill may be just as effective as a rehabilitation facility for stroke patients (32). Walking can also be used in a form of physical therapy called gait training, which helps surgery or injury patients walk better and more confidently (33).

Remember that achieving the benefits of exercising with a treadmill depends on a number of factors, including having a game plan, eating healthily, working out consistently, working out with proper form, staying hydrated, basal metabolism, ambient temperature, as well as your height, weight, and sex. 

Walking Workout Routines

To enjoy the maximum benefits of a walking workout, there’s one thing no one can overlook: consistency. As is true for exercisers of all ages, creating their own engaging, challenging, and enjoyable routine is an important step in keeping older adults motivated.

Before designing or choosing a walking workout program, however, there’s a critical element to brush up on.

Rate Of Perceived Exertion

There are four perceived exertion zones (1). These zones can help users determine how hard they’re working as they walk and, as a result, what type of benefits they may be able to expect. These zones are based on a combination of heart rate* and perception; that is, how difficult a workout feels. And, remember to speak with your physician before you begin any new workout routine.

Here are the four perceived exertion zones:

Zone 1

In this zone, the heart rate is at 50 to 65% of the maximum (34). On a scale from 1 to 10, this level of exercise generally feels like a 5 or 6. It should be simple and, according to the Talk Test, seniors should be able to speak comfortably as they move (35).

Zone 2

Zone 2 takes the heart rate between 65 and 75% of the maximum. It feels like a 6 or 7 on the scale. It should be “challenging but comfortable,” which means heavier breath and less ability to chat.

Zone 3

Zone 3 is described as “challenging and uncomfortable.” Heart rate will be between 75 and 85%, and it falls between 7 and 8 on the perception scale.

Zone 4

This is the most intense of the four zones and may not be the best choice for all older adults. Heart rate is between 85 and 95% during this type of exercise, though not at the maximum, and it creates a feeling of breathlessness. It feels like the far end of the scale: 8 to 10.

Please note, since the four zones are based on a percentage of maximum heart rate, they will be different between individuals. That’s why the rate of perceived exertion can be a helpful tool for workout planning. It allows you to base your walking routines on your own body.

Walking Workout Program Examples

Different workout programs have different benefits—and, naturally, they appeal to different individuals. To find the best walking routine for you, it’s best to experiment with different speeds, incline settings, and intensity levels.

A great start is to check out the workouts on iFIT. Choose from a variety of walking workouts that target different muscle groups, speed/incline intervals, and gentle strolls throughout different locations all over the world like Costa Rica, Bermuda, and Tahiti. 

But before you take yourself out on an adventure with iFIT, here are a few workout examples to get you warmed up from home right now.

The Interval Trainer

HIIT gives you a chance to combine higher-intensity workouts with effective periods of rest. The high-intensity portions should be between Zones 2 and 3, while the rest portions should fall outside the zones entirely—a comfortable exertion of 2 or 3 on the scale (1). Though these are Harvard Health Publishing recommendations, be sure to safely go at your own pace. 

For this exercise, users should start slowly. For example, working hard for one minute, resting for three, then working hard again. A ten-minute interval workout may look something like this:

  • Walk slowly for 3 minutes.
  • Walk quickly or jog lightly for 1 minute.
  • Walk slowly for 3 minutes.
  • Walk quickly or jog lightly for 1 minute.
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes to complete the routine.

As users get more comfortable with their home treadmill or with HIIT overall, they can change the ratio. For example, it may feel better to walk slowly for two minutes and work harder for two minutes at a time.

The Mountain-Climber

This walking workout routine mimics a journey over a mountain or hill, which means it utilizes incline settings. Here’s what it might look like:

  • Walk at 0% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 1% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 2% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 3% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 4% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 5% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 0% incline for six minutes. (This is similar to the rest period in HIIT and may provide the sensation of having reached the top of a mountain to take in the view.)
  • Walk at -1% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at -2% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at -3% incline for 1 minute.
  • Walk at 0% incline for 5 minutes.

This 20-minute walk takes you “up and down a mountain” to provide a varied workout.

The Racer

For those who love the speed of a run but may not be comfortable – or physically able to keep up – with the pace, there’s this: The “racer” workout.

First, you should determine the top speed that you feel most comfortable with. This can vary between treadmill makes and models, so it’s smart to double-check. Perceived exertion zones can also be used. While this speed may never resemble a jog or run, it should still feel brisk.

Next, you should determine a medium speed; something that feels comfortable but still involves exertion. We’ll call this a median.

Finally, it’s time to choose a minimum speed. This should feel like a walk in the park, literally. The goal here is for you to be able to rest and catch your breath.

With all of these speeds in mind, you can then follow a walking program with this pattern:

  • Minimum speed for 1 minute.
  • Median for 1 minute.
  • Maximum speed for 1 minute.
  • Minimum speed for 1 minute.
  • Maximum speed for 2 minutes.
  • Median for 2 minutes.
  • Maximum speed for 1 minute.
  • Minimum speed for 1 minute.
  • Median for 1 minute.
  • Maximum speed for 2 minutes.
  • Minimum speed for 1 minute.
  • Maximum speed for 3 minutes.
  • Median for 2 minutes.
  • Maximum speed for 1 minute.

This 20-minute workout combines HIIT with precise speed control, allowing users to experiment with pace and intensity while also enjoying a brisk walk. The calculation of three different speeds keeps both mind and body engaged.

The Explorer

For individuals  who are more focused on fun, iFIT has plenty to offer. With guided beginner workouts and interval training, you can explore far-off locations without leaving home—from the Scottish Highlands to the pristine beaches of Hawaii. Plus, with automated speed and incline control, you can let their trainers do the work while you focus on learning all about the destination and soaking up the scenery.


Treadmill walking is a great way to get the recommended amount of exercise in a safe, comfortable, controlled environment, all while enjoying numerous health and wellness benefits (1). 

Our top treadmill discussed here is the NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill, but there are plenty of options to explore. Just remember to look for all the right features—like an included workout program—and plan a walking workout program that’s both engaging and effective.

For help choosing a treadmills, also check out our treadmill buying guide.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. NordicTrack assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment. Shipping times are dependent on in-stock inventory and delivery timeframes may vary. Make sure to check the website for any specific delays in delivery and shipping. *Heart rate monitors used for exercise such as the wireless heart rate monitoring chest strap, grip sensors, or forearm monitors are not medical devices, and their accuracy may be affected by a number of factors. They are also not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
IFIT DISCLAIMER: iFIT experience requires an internet connection and Wi-Fi to function. *Credit Card required for activation. Membership auto-renews for a fee (starting at $15/mo.) plus tax, unless canceled in advance. Your Commitment Period may be month-to-month or twelve (12), eighteen (18), or thirty-six (36) months, depending on your agreement. Terms shall apply to your iFIT use and subscription during your Commitment Period and any subsequent Renewal Term. Unless you cancel your account or notify us at least twenty four (24) hours prior to the expiration of your commitment period that you do not wish to renew your subscription, your iFIT subscription will automatically renew for an additional month, one (1) year, or two (2) year period, as applicable, for the same duration as your initial commitment period (“The Renewal Term”), and you authorize us to bill the then-applicable membership fee and any taxes to the payment method we have on record for you.


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