You Asked: As a Beginner, How Often (and How Far) Should I Walk?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  13 comments   :  270,814 Views

Walking is an excellent way to start getting fit because it costs little to nothing and can be done almost anywhere and by just about anyone. (Learn more about the health and fitness benefits of walking.) So how do you begin with a walking program? Here are a few do's and don'ts to get you started.

DON'T focus too much on speed or distance. When you're new to walking, it doesn't matter how far or how fast you go. Instead, focus on slowly building up your time (starting with as little as 5-10 minutes at first) and walking at a comfortable pace for you. Greater speeds and distances will come as you get fitter!

DO ease into walking. Remember to warm up at a slower pace and work up to longer distances gradually.

DO wear proper footwear. A supportive shoe will be comfortable and go the distance with you. (Learn how to pick the best walking shoe.)

DON'T get caught up with long workouts. Walking can be broken up into several mini sessions throughout the day as you accumulate your time. You don't have to walk for an hour, for example, to get the benefits of this form of exercise.
When starting a walking plan—or any cardio exercise plan, the acronym FIT (Frequency, Intensity, Time) will help you get started on the right foot. Here's what it all means and how you can apply it to your walks.

Frequency: How many days per week should you walk?
Aim for a minimum of 3 walking days per week, and gradually work your way up to 5 or 6 days per week as you get fitter. For most people, walking can be done almost every day of the week because it's low-impact and not as intense as other fitness programs. But don't forget the importance of rest and recovery. Give yourself at least 1-2 days off each week.

Intensity: How fast (or intensely) should you walk?
Even leisurely walking has health benefits. However, exercising in an aerobic range (calculate your target heart rate to determine your ideal workout intensity) has greater weight-loss and fitness benefits. The actual speed you walk doesn't matter as much as your intensity does. If you can comfortably answer a question during exercise, while still feeling like you’re exerting yourself and breathing a little heavier, you’re usually working at the right intensity. Learn more about calculating and measuring exercise intensity here. Remember: If you can't reach your target heart rate with walking alone, then add intensity by increasing speed or incline.

Time: How long should you walk?
Ideally, work your way up to walking for at least 20 minutes per session. Eventually, you may be able to walk longer (up to an hour).  The longer you walk past 20 minutes, the more fat you are burning, so that can be a good motivator to keep pushing yourself as you get fitter. But remember: Time can be cumulative: You don't have to do 20-60 minutes in a single walking session. You can do several 10 minute mini workouts each day and add them up.

Need more ideas to get started? Check out these walking workout plans!
Interval Walking Workouts for All Levels
A 12-Week Walking Plan for Beginners
Map Your Walk to Discover Your Pace & Distance
Training Plan: Walk a 5K
30-Minute Indoor Walking Workout

What's your best advice for beginner walkers?

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  • 13
    Started walking a few months ago then a neighbor asked me to walk their dog. So now I get paid to do my walking. It is a win-win situation. - 11/10/2016   6:07:42 AM
  • 12
    I've gotten up to about 3 miles a day, which is way more than I ever thought I'd do. I'm getting a little tired of my normal route, though, I think I need to switch it up to keep myself motivated. - 10/17/2016   4:53:08 PM
  • 11
    I walk every day and walk 35 minutes on a short day. Walk about 80 minutes on long day, though I would prefer to walk for 3 hours a day but can't. - 8/25/2016   4:50:36 PM
  • 10
    This is SO me right now. I am just starting and so proud of myself to be doing 30 min per day at an aerobic heart rate. It is hard work! - 8/25/2016   2:42:22 PM
    Good to know, that starting out slow and building on that is the best way to do it. Thanks, Multnomah - 6/5/2016   4:03:56 PM
  • 8
    I like the moderate approach described in this blog. I have back and knee problems, so cannot walk extensively, but every bit helps. I don't drive, so I HAVE to walk. When feeling better, I can hop off the bus a stop or two before my destination, or walk to a further stop before boarding. I keep a good pace, but honestly, in an urban neighborhood my safety demands stopping at streets, business driveways, and alleys to watch for vehicles, so a sustained high pace is impossible. I also supplement outdoor walking with chair marching, which I can sustain for periods of time.

    One of the best motivators for me is my Spark Activity Tracker... I want to see that glow, and know that I am making progress. - 2/19/2016   9:21:27 AM
  • REDBIRD7933
    I wouldn't mind walking to work. It's only 2 miles. But when it's -6 degrees, I don't think so. - 1/12/2016   11:29:32 AM
    Whenever I try to walk now, I start getting horrible back spasms. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting started with this problem? I used to walk all the time. - 9/13/2014   3:30:36 PM
  • 5
    Why do you think Europeans are generally smaller then their American counterparts? Much fewer people own a vehicle so they walk or bike EVERYWHERE they go! It's a NO BRAINER! Walking is great for us, and the modern American society has killed walking as a lifestyle! :( Hence obesity. Ugh... - 5/30/2014   5:02:39 PM
    Even walking is hard on me I have a bad back and a really bad knee, I do take the dog to the dog park a couple times a week by the time I get back to my car my back and knee are killing me. I do go to water exercise 2 times a week for an hour each time. - 5/4/2014   10:51:45 AM
  • 3
    I lost around 30kg walking, its fantastic for losing weight. I started by walking the 6km to work one day a week and gradually built up to every day. During summer I would sometimes walk both ways! I would change things up by walking up hills or taking scenic walks in the weekend. - 5/3/2014   7:40:39 PM
  • 2
    Due to ankle surgery I must walk at a little slower pace - around 3mph. It is difficult to get my heart rate up if there are not any hills around but I find that 'shadow boxing' while I walk will increase the heart rate. It takes a little practice to find the correct rhythm. - 5/3/2014   12:31:23 PM
  • 1
    Have you ever tried indoor waking like walk away the pounds and how would you judge when you might need to change it up?(How could you change up walking??) - 3/23/2014   10:35:24 AM

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