Find Your Place: Get Fit on the Side

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Your body doesn't move in one dimension, yet that's often how we train. Be ready for the real action with these four simple moves.

Your day likely doesn’t involve dodging exploding asteroids or chasing down villains, but your body is designed to move as if it were the star of a 3D action flick.

“Life asks us to move in a lot of directions,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack. Trouble is, many fitness routines focus on forward and backward or upward and downward motions.

That means we’re often left unprepared for times when we need to move sideways—like to get out of the way of a runaway shopping cart, weave through a crowded sidewalk, or sidestep a puddle.

“Life really catches us off guard when we have to move side to side,” Jack continues. “If we don’t prepare for that, that’s where knee, ankle, and hip injuries—and falls—come from.”

Lucky you, Jack has just the moves to get you ready for action.

How to Use These Exercises

Exercises that ask you to move in side-to-side patterns have a lot going for them: They build power in your leg and core muscles, improve your balance and coordination, and sharpen your sense of body awareness.

Clear some open space floor space and keep water handy to sip as needed. If you'd like support during any of the exercises, set up near a wall or have a sturdy chair nearby.

Press play on the video above and follow along to master the movements. Once you have them down, mix them into your regular workouts. They're also great to use as a warmup before your daily walk or whenever you need a break from sitting.

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.

Exercise #1: High Step and Slide

Perform this move for 30 seconds

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides or hands on hips. Pick your right foot up and step up and over an imaginary object. When your foot is firmly on the floor, slide your left foot over to meet the right. Pause, then repeat on the left side. Continue slowly alternating from side to side.

Make it harder: Pick up the pace.

Exercise #2: Duck and Lunge

Perform this move for 30 seconds

How to do it: Stand with your feet wide apart, knees bent. Lean forward by hinging at your hips. Don’t round your back or hunch your shoulders. Keeping your feet firmly planted to the floor, imagine there is a rope at shoulder level and duck your upper body under that rope by slowly lunging to the right. Pause and lift your torso a bit before ducking back under and lunging to the left. Continue slowly alternating side to side.

Make it harder: Pick up the pace. You can also add an arm swing.

Exercise #3: Side Step and Kick

Perform this move for 30 seconds

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How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Take two steps to the right and kick your left foot out to the side. Pause, return your left foot to the floor and repeat the pattern on your left side. Continue slowly alternating side to side.

Make it easier: Stand facing a wall—within arm’s reach—for support.

Make it harder: Pick up the pace. You can also add an arm swing or arm punch.

Exercise #4: Side Step Jack

Perform this move for 30 seconds

How to do it: This is a modified, no-impact jumping jack. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hips pressed back, as if you’re about to sit. Step to your right, raising your arms to shoulder level as you go. Bring your feet together, lowering your arms as you go. Pause, then repeat the pattern on your left side. Continue slowly alternating side to side.

Make it harder: Pick up the pace. You can also switch up your arm movements. Try alternating punches to the front or above your head.

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