3 Exercises To Improve Speed When Walking (For Seniors)

Many seniors find that their walking speed decreases as they age. This can lead to frustration and a feeling of lost independence. Fortunately, there are exercises to improve speed and help you walk faster and more confidently.

Watch the video below to learn 3 exercises to increase speed when walking.

Table of Contents

The Only 2 Ways to Walk Faster

There are only two ways to walk faster:

  1. Take longer steps
  2. Take more steps in a given period of time

We'll start with improving step length.

3 Factors That Affect Step Length

Your step length is determined by three main factors:

  1. Flexibility in your hip flexors and calves
  2. Strength in your glutes and calves
  3. Balance

Addressing these factors through targeted exercises can help you take longer steps, thereby increasing your walking speed.

Exercise 1: Hip Flexor and Calf Stretch

Improving flexibility in your hip flexors and calves can increase your step length and walking speed. Here's how to do it:

  1. Start as if you were taking a step forward.
  2. Keep your heel flat on the floor and your toes pointed ahead.
  3. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip and your calf.
  4. Squeeze your glutes on the back leg, which also helps with strengthening
  5. Hold this position for about a minute.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

calf and hip flexor stretching exercise to improve speed when walking

This stretch simulates the normal step you take when walking.

The more flexible your calves and hip flexors are, the longer of a step you can take.

Additionally, if you do this exercise without holding on, it can also help your balance.

However, if you do need to hold on due to balance concerns, feel free to do so.  Always keep safety in mind first.

Exercise 2: Calf and Glute Strengthening Exercise

Strong calves and glutes are essential for propelling you forward when you walk.

If you remember from physics:

Force = Mass x Acceleration

Since your body mass is pretty much constant, you can only improve force production by increasing acceleration.

This in turn improves your walking speed.

When athletes are doing exercises to improve speed, they often do plyometric, or explosive exercises such as jumping or bounding.

Many seniors would have difficulty doing such exercises.

However, here's a modified bounding exercise suitable for seniors:

  1. Face a wall and place your hands on it for support.
  2. Start with both feet flat on the floor.
  3. Push off the ground with your calves and glutes, bringing one knee up towards your chest.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
  5. Do 10 repetitions on each leg or as many as you feel comfortable with.

Modified bounding exercise to improve speed when walking

This exercise improves the power of your push-off, helping you to take longer steps and walk faster.

Balance Confidence Affects Walking Speed

When people have lost confidence in their balance, they tend to slow down and take slower steps.

This is often due to a fear of falling.

However, balance confidence has actually been shown to be a predictor of falls.

If you fall, you're likely to lose some confidence in your balance.

But the reverse is also true:

Lack of confidence in your balance actually increases your risk of falling.

Walking is NOT a cognitive activity.

It's a learned pattern housed within your spinal cord.

It's like running a computer program that runs on autopilot.

A professional athlete can hit a baseball, golf ball, or tennis ball without thinking about the steps. And often when they DO think about it too much, their performance gets worse.

Likewise, if walking becomes too cognitive, performance gets worse than if you just let your body run the learned motor program.

However, walking faster can be scary if you've lost some confidence in your balance.  But the only way to overcome the fear is to face it head on.

Exercise 3: Walking With Faster, More Frequent Steps

Improving your cadence, or the number of steps you take per minute, can help you walk faster.

To increase your confidence with taking faster steps, try one or more of the following tips:

  1. Walk fast with a family member or friend.
  2. Practice taking quicker steps with a wheeled walker.
  3. Walk on a treadmill holding onto the handrails while focusing on quicker steps.

Practicing in a safe environment helps build confidence, which can lead to faster walking speeds over time.


By incorporating these three exercises to improve speed into your routine, you can regain your walking speed and confidence.

Need Further Help To Improve Your Walking Speed?

If you live in the St. Louis area and need help to walk faster and more confidently, we'd be happy to help you at More 4 Life.

Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.


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