Fitness Articles

Beginner Walking Workouts

A 12-Week Program that Builds Endurance

It’s time to start moving! Walking is an excellent form of exercise, especially for beginners or people returning to fitness after a long time off. This introductory walking program will help you build enough endurance to safely and effectively increase the time that you walk over the course of 12 weeks. You can follow this heart-healthy walking program whether you walk on a treadmill, track, or other outdoor venue. Be sure to refer to our Walking Guide for more information and resources for walkers.

Getting Started
Use the FIT (Frequency, Intensity and Time) Principles for a safe and effective workout!
  • Frequency: Try the walking workout listed three times each week, ideally with a day off between workouts to allow your body to recover. If a particular week's workouts feel too tiring for you, repeat that week again before moving ahead to the next week’s workout.
  • Intensity: Walk at a brisk—not leisurely—pace. Don’t worry about your actual speed, but do pay attention to your overall intensity, aiming for 4-6 on a scale of 1-10. You’ll find a full explanation of this Intensity Scale (known as RPE) below the workouts.
  • Time: Try to follow the suggested guidelines to the best of your ability, which means that you'll walk 2-3 minutes more with each passing week.
And remember, always warm up and cool down. Warming up at a slow pace will help prepare your joints, muscles and heart for exercise. Cooling down will prepare your body to return to a resting state, help prevent muscle soreness, and prevent illness and injury.

An Explanation of Using the RPE Method to Measure Intensity
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) may be the most versatile method to measure exercise intensity for all age groups. Using this method is simple, because all you have to do is estimate how hard you feel like you’re exerting yourself during exercise. RPE is a good measure of intensity because it is individualized—it’s based on your current fitness level and overall perception of exercise. The scale ranges from 1 to 10, allowing you to rate how you feel physically and mentally at a given intensity level.

An RPE between 5 and 7 is recommended for most adults. This means that at the height of your workout, you should feel you are working "somewhat hard" to "hard." The guidelines given for this specific workout program are for beginners and therefore reflect a somewhat lower intensity level.
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • KIM3155
    Good plan to follow. I'm walking already, yet need to account for my work outs. - 12/30/2015 5:18:09 PM
  • NUNEES53
    Great program for arthritis sufferers, will start in the morning - 12/29/2015 7:39:08 PM
  • EVE1922
    Starting today. - 12/15/2015 8:45:33 AM
  • Will follow easy plan - 12/12/2015 11:22:07 PM
  • Hi all. I am going to start walking. I need to talk with my physical therapy person and Dr.I have spinal arthritis.
    - 11/1/2015 8:47:02 AM
    Fantstic program .For many years I Nordic power walk 4 to 6 miles daily 365 days a year and enjoy the challenge of all weather conditions. The outdoors is my medication for the day. Then I indoor row for 10 km ,aiming for 5 million metres..Would like to encourage people in appreciating life with actiyity ,a smile and wellness. - 8/24/2015 10:18:09 AM
    Thanks Jen. Great article, great help, especially the RPE method. I'm sure your other readers would gain something from this too.
    - 7/29/2015 1:14:38 PM
  • This plan is definitely doable. I'm starting right away. - 5/12/2015 5:12:20 PM
    Walking with intention is always a good exercise. I continue to wish that Spark People would allow you to record intensity of a work out - calories really vary. - 5/12/2015 1:18:12 PM
  • GASKIN134
    I have been back and forth with getting into moving like I should and this article was a good foundation to follow. My only question is what do you recommend for warming up and for cooling down? - 5/12/2015 7:14:10 AM
  • I've dreaded any kind of exercise for so long but actually look forward to starting this tomorrow! I have chronic back and hip pain due to an extremely stubborn spondylo, but I thinkpart of my problem is that I haven't exercised in so long - "use it or lose it". I'm 69 and need to lose 132 lb, so I'm here for the long run (and there's a laugh for you)! Anyway, I am truly inspired by this article. Thank you! - 3/16/2015 2:24:57 AM
  • KRCT16
    Great article. It will be a drag to start during winter but there's no better time to start than the present. - 2/1/2015 3:44:32 PM
  • even though I go to the gym 3-4 times a week I dont like walking outside, so this is a good idea to ease me into it - 1/24/2015 3:20:22 PM
  • Very usefull article. Thank you, we need more of these. Walking is my favorite activity ever. - 1/24/2015 5:42:46 AM
    Enjoyed reading this article, and this seems like a good idea for my fitness program. Going to go for this one.
    - 1/3/2015 4:34:30 PM

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