Find Your Place: Walk Without Pain or Injury

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

The ability to walk is vital to staying independent. Preserve your gait with two simple exercises.

There’s a reason walking appears on every health expert’s must-do list: It works.

Walking burns calories and helps you shed pounds, even if you have a significant amount of weight to lose. It helps you manage your blood sugar and keep your joints lubricated. Feeling sad or stressed? Research shows that getting up from your chair and taking a short walk can quickly lift your mood.

And the faster you can walk, the better. Moving at a quick clip is associated with a lower risk of heart and lung disease, according to a recent study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

But here’s the thing: Even though walking seems simple enough, there’s a right and wrong way to put one foot in front of the other.

“At the base of each step are movement patterns that all of our joints and muscles have to do for us to walk without getting hurt,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack.

His solution? Practice these two simple moves. “These two exercises will help you step better to do whatever it is you want to do—walk more, take hikes, run 5Ks,” he says. “This is where it starts.”

How to Use These Walking Exercises

The beauty of these two moves is you can do them every day. They’re great as a warmup before your daily walk or as exercises you can incorporate into your regular workouts.

All you need is open floor space. These exercises will challenge your balance, so feel free to set up near a wall or counter for support.

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

If use a cane or walker, it’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about proper walking technique.

Walking Exercise #1: Step Forward and Back

Perform the move up to 1 minute per side

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet together. Brace your core as if you’re about to receive a punch in the gut.

Step forward with your left leg, and tap your heel on the floor. Pause here, allowing your right knee to bend slightly.

From here, step back with your left leg, and tap your toes on the floor. Pause here, allowing your right knee to bend slightly.

Continue alternating—tapping heel in front and toes behind you—in a slow, smooth motion. Switch legs and repeat.

Make it harder: Go even slower with the front-to-back motion. Alternatively, speed up the movement for a cardio boost.

Walking Exercise #2: Rocking Horse

Perform the move up to 1 minute per side

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet together. Brace your core as if you’re about to receive a punch in the gut.

Step forward with your left leg, landing on your heel and pressing through to the ball of your foot. As you “rock” forward on your left foot, you’ll raise your right foot off the floor.

From here, shift your weight to your right leg, landing on the ball of your foot and pressing through your heel. As you “rock” backward on your right foot, you’ll raise your left foot off the floor.

Continue alternating—moving from heel to ball of foot in front, and from ball of foot to heel behind you—in a slow, smooth motion. Switch legs and repeat.

Make it harder: Speed up the movement, or add a slight hop as you bring each foot to the floor.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of gyms and fitness locations across the nation, plus take exercise classes designed for seniors and led by supportive instructors. If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive fitness content by logging in to or creating your online account here.

Find out if your health plan already includes the SilverSneakers benefit. CHECK YOUR ELIGIBILITY