Fitness Articles

Beginner Walking Workouts

A 12-Week Program that Builds Endurance

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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 a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • This plan is definitely doable. I'm starting right away. - 5/12/2015 5:12:20 PM
  • DANDYLINES
    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
  • SHARON_AHAUS
    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
  • I started this today and am looking forward to progressing with it. I have a bad knee and do mostly water exercises, but I love this time of year and want to be outside. - 10/8/2014 9:02:45 PM
  • EX-SKINNY60
    I hope someone sent KEMOGANGAN the Leslie Sansone's web address because she DOES put out great free exercise videos there. I have many of her DVD's and my biggest problem came two years ago when I got really good at working the computer. ZAP! here I am sitting on my tush typing, and reading, and blogging WAY TOO MUCH! My plan is to tapper off, right? LOL!!! All addicts have withdrawal and this machine keeps me enthralled for hours! So, I have GOT to get away more often to do those exercises on my DVD's again. Wish me luck, folks! - 8/29/2014 8:41:41 AM
  • I followed Dr. Andrew Weil's plan in his book, "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health."
    week one starts with 10 minutes of walking, increasing by 5 minutes each week until one is walking 45 minutes.

    Do whatever you can. It is always better to do something rather than nothing. - 8/21/2014 9:45:45 AM
  • All this info is a great to know... I'm trying to figure out how to copy for myself. - 5/26/2014 9:43:51 AM
  • BSL1956
    I have COPD and stared walking 2 miles a day last week its tough but I made it. I already feel better am going to try for 4 miles next week - 1/19/2014 10:38:39 AM
  • ANGELAAMY
    about half a block is all I can walk thanks to bad back and arthritis everywhere. so I use a power chair, walk beside it as far as the body lets me, ( try to go a little farther each time ), then ride and rest a bit then walk some more. in stores I push the chair and walk, can stay on my feet whole shopping trip on a good day. recently got a mini trampoline with a balance bar for safety. can only do a little jogging in place on it but gets the heart rate up and less joint pressure than jogging on a solid surface so i'm doing as much as I can every day- am 220, should only be 130-160. I am gonna lose it !!! - 12/30/2013 3:38:08 PM
  • I used to be able to walk for 45 min. and no trouble at all. Back problems have taken over so I can only walk for about 15 min. before my leg goes numb and I have to stop. When I walk I take this into consideration and don't do more than I can. I also use a recumbent bike that takes pressure off my back.

    If you have health problems, do what you can. If that's just 5 min. a day, ok, it's better than nothing.

    I like the looks of this workout. It's definitely geared for beginners or people who need to ease into a walking program. I also like Leslie Sansone's workouts. - 12/5/2013 10:19:55 AM

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