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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.
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.
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.
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