Running will help you stay active as you age, but when you’re out clocking miles, your body is consistently working in the sagittal plane (as in, moving forward). This limits your range of motion in other planes of movement, which can restrict your overall mobility in the long-term. Without exercises that get you moving in new ways and building strength, you also risk injury.
This is precisely why you need to an aerobic workout designed for seniors, like the one below, that gets you out of your comfort zone, elevates your heart rate, and helps you stay nimble and strong on and off the road.
The Benefits of an Aerobic Workout for Senior Runners
As you get older, it’s important to maintain your running routine and stay active throughout the day, as research shows exercise can help you maintain bone health, prevent hospitalizations, and help you live longer.
Plus, with a quick aerobic workout like this that includes multi-plane exercises, you challenge your balance, enhance your strength, and increase your aerobic capacity—all important fitness factors for masters athletes.
“With these exercises you’ll move through multiple planes, which will expand your range of motion and allow you to go through your day-to-day activities feeling strong and confident,” says Amber Rees, chief curriculum lead at Barry’s in New York City and cofounder of the Brave Body Project, and creator of this workout. Consider this workout an all-inclusive approach to targeting muscles that you use in your daily life, she adds.
More specifically, this routine includes two different squat variations—and the squat is a traditional exercise known for building strength in your lower body, while improving mobility at the hip, knee, and ankle. Because squats strengthen your hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, they can also help to reduce back and joint pain, Rees says.
The fast pace of the side-step jack, side step to knee raise, and standing knee drive included here also get you to work at a high intensity, while kicking up the heart rate to help improve your cardio endurance. Even better: All of these exercises are low-impact, offering a break for your joints (and making the moves a great complement to running!), while you get your blood pumping and reap some wellness gains like an energy and mood boost, says Rees.
How to use this list: On a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale of 1-10, with 10 being your all-out effort, practice this routine at a 5 to 7 intensity.
Perform each exercise in the order listed below for 40 seconds each and rest for 20 seconds in between each exercise. Complete 2 rounds of this list, resting for 60 seconds in between rounds.
Rees demonstrates the exercises so you can learn proper form. You don’t need any equipment, but an exercise mat is optional.
Why it works: Squats—one of the most functional exercises, as you perform it every time you sit down and stand up—target your hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, which you need strong for your runs and everyday life.
How to do it: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly pointed out, and arms down by sides. Send hips back and down, bending knees to lower into a squat, and lift arms in front of you. Press feet into ground to stand back up and bring arms down by sides. Repeat.
2. Side-Step Jack
Why it works: This modification of the jumping jack gets you moving in a frontal plane (side to side), without adding impact.
How to do it: Stand with feet together and arms down by sides. Step to the left while simultaneously bringing arms to shoulder height and cross left hand over right hand. Return left foot to center, then step out with right foot while simultaneously crossing right hand over left. Return right foot to center. Continue alternating.
3. Side Step to Knee Raise
Why it works: Practicing this exercise will improve your coordination and balance, while also improving knee drive.
How to do it: Stand with feet together and arms at sides, elbows bent. Take three to four steps to the left, starting with left foot then right, while swinging arms back and forth in opposite directions. On the last step, drive the right knee up to hip height. Repeat moving to the right, and driving left knee up to hip height on the last step. Continue alternating.
4. Knee Drive
Why it works: This exercise will help you improve single-leg stability while also strengthening your legs and glutes.
How to do it: Start with both arms above head, hands together, left leg bent and right leg extend out behind you. Drive right knee to chest while bringing hands down to tap right thigh. Then drive right foot back to tap the ground. Repeat for 20 seconds then switch to the other side.
5. Squat With Knee Raise
Why it works: This exercise will challenge your balance, while building strength in your lower body.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, and arms down by sides. Send hips back and down, bending knees to lower into a squat, and bring arms in front of you. Press feet into ground to stand back up, then shift weight to right leg and bend left knee to raise knee to hip height, balancing on right leg. Step left knee back down and repeat the squat. This time, perform the knee raise on the right side. Continue alternating as you perform the squat.
Monique LeBrun joined the editorial staff in October 2021 as the associate health and fitness editor. She has a master’s degree in journalism and has previously worked for ABC news and Scholastic. She is an avid runner who loves spending time outside.
Deputy Editor, Health & Fitness
Mallory Creveling, an ACE-certified personal trainer and RRCA-certified run coach, joined the Runner’s World and Bicycling team in August 2021. She has more than a decade of experience covering fitness, health, and nutrition. As a freelance writer, her work appeared in Women’s Health, Self, Men’s Journal, Reader’s Digest, and more. She has also held staff editorial positions at Family Circle and Shape magazines, as well as DailyBurn.com. A former New Yorker/Brooklynite, she’s now based in Easton, PA.