Kick Off Summer with a Fun Fitness Challenge

By , Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
Editor's Note: We are thrilled to be teaming up with Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer and YouTube fitness star, to bring you the #5MileChallenge! Read on for Jessica's explanation of the challenge, and get ready to lace up your walking shoes on June 1st. See you on the road (or track, or trail, or even in your living room with a walking DVD!).

Whether you are just starting to build your fitness habit or are a more advanced exerciser, a regular walking program offers so many incredible health and fitness benefits. That's why I am so excited to be teaming up with SparkPeople to bring you this fun #5MileChallenge! 
Our goal is to help you stay more active when you are not already working out, or to get you moving more often to spark up a new exercise habit. Even if you have been exercising routinely for years, it may not be enough to combat the ill effects of hours of sitting, which is why adding more steps to your day is beneficial for everyone (just check out these scary sitting stats!).
The #5MileChallenge plan can be combined with your existing workout routine, or it can become the basis of a new exercise plan (see details below on how to best adjust it to meet your needs and current fitness level). And the best part is, the #5MileChallenge is FREE and easy to do! You won't need any special equipment to join in--just a comfortable pair of walking shoes. 
Here's how the #5MileChallenge works:
Starting June 1st, fit in your 5 miles with us and the SparkPeople #5MileChallenge Community over the next 30 days.
Find which description below best fits you and follow the appropriate mileage recommendations:
Just starting out? 
Aim for 1 mile, 5 days a week (5 miles a week total).
Been walking, but not as consistently as you'd like? Or, do you exercise regularly, but need to add more steps to your sedentary day? 

Aim for about 2.5 miles a day, 6 days a week OR 3 miles a day, 5 days a week (15 miles a week total).
Are you a pro walker? Do you love getting in 10,000 steps a day? 
Aim for 5 miles of walking a day (roughly 10,000 steps), 6 days a week (30 miles a week total).
Of course, we encourage you to always listen to your body and make adjustments. If these suggestions feel like too much or not enough, add or subtract miles to find the perfect fit for your personal needs!
You can measure your miles a couple of ways:
By Time - 15 minutes at a brisk pace = roughly 1 mile*
By Steps - We're counting 10,000 steps as the approximate equivalent of 5 miles, so count 2,000 steps as 1 mile*.
*For the sake of this challenge we're using these estimated (though not exact) measurements as our guide. Keep in mind everyone's stride lengths differ; exact mileage may vary by individual.
Here are 5 Great Ways to Fit in Your #5MileChallenge:
#1: Designate a safe, 1 mile loop around your neighborhood or office.
Track the mileage with your car (or similar device) to figure out a safe 1-mile walking path and then take regular walk breaks throughout your day to increase your daily steps.
#2: Wear an activity tracker. 
A pedometer or the Spark Activity Tracker can be helpful tools to keep track of your daily step count and stay on the path to reach your goals. Be sure to designate a few times throughout your day to check in with your tracking device to keep you on target and avoid having to play catch-up at the end of the day.
#3: Use walking DVDs.
Don't let bad weather or unsafe walking conditions keep you from getting in your miles! Try a few indoor walking DVDs to help you rack up your daily step count safely. They may even help you stay more motivated, too--one study found that watching other people exercise helps stimulate your brain's impulse to mimic others, so you may even walk further, faster with a video! Check out our brand new "Walk On: 5 Fat Burning Miles" for a DVD that's tailor-made for this #5MileChallenge!
#4: Set a reminder timer.
When life gets busy, it's easy to forget to keep walking. Try setting an hourly timer to remind you to get up and walk for 5-10 minutes throughout the day. One study found that walking for just 5 minutes out of every sedentary hour was enough to combat the dangers of prolonged sitting, but feel free to aim for more if you can fit in it! 
#5: Check in with other challengers!
Having a group to support you is a great way to stay motivated and accountable, so be sure to check in with your fellow #5MileChallenge teammates during the program! Seeing other people reaching their daily step goals may keep you more motivated to reach your own. You can check in with us here on this page in the comments below or on social media (don't forget to use the hashtag #5MileChallenge and tag @JESSICASMITHTV and @SparkPeople) so that we can cheer you on! 
For more great ideas on how to fit in your daily steps, check out this post from Coach Nicole.
Want to get the most out of your #5MileChallenge? Use these helpful challenge tips as a guide: 
#1: Cross train with resistance exercise 2-4 days a week.
Unless you already have a regular strength-training routine, you are going to want to add in some resistance training to your walking program since strong muscles help support your joints and boost your stamina while you stride. If you need a good home workout option, try my 30-Minute Resistance Band Workout, or if you are new to exercise and don't have any equipment on hand, this 15-Minute Bodyweight Basics routine is a great place to start. Beginners can aim for 2 non-consecutive days a week while more advanced exercisers may want to add up to 4 weekly strength sessions.
#2: Give your walking muscles some love.
Strength training is important, but you'll also want to focus on stretching and strengthening the key walking muscles found in your feet, ankles and surrounding your knees and hips. Keep your walking muscles strong and flexible by including a few of these exercises for your feet in your weekly routine and/or follow along with our "Strong Feet and Ankles" and "Strong Knees and Hips" workouts found in our new DVD, "Walk On: 5 Fat Burning Miles."
#3: Mix up your mileage. 
Keep things interesting and avoid overuse injuries by mixing up your walking techniques--try side steps, high knee marches, even walking backwards (only in safe areas and very carefully, of course) to mix up your miles each day! You'll work more muscles that way and keep your body and mind actively engaged (walking DVDs can help provide you with some ideas to try on your own).
#4: Take active rest days.
When you aren't pounding the pavement, stay active with other activities that complement your walks such as stretching, light swimming or cycling. While it's important to give your body some time off of walking each week, you can still stay in motion while you recharge and recover. Gentle stretching or other alternative, low-intensity activities can help prevent stiffness and soreness.
#5: Boost your burn.

Simple things like maintaining good posture, pumping your arms and adding in speed intervals can all help boost your calorie burn while you walk. Skip holding dumbbells or wearing wrist or ankle weights, though, as they can cause joint strain. If you want to add weight to your walk, consider wearing a weighted vest, which adds the extra poundage where your body can handle it--at your core--instead. 
The #5MileChallenge officially Kicks off on June 1st, 2015. Please leave us a comment below and let us know if you will joining our team for the program!
Remember, if you use social media, use the hashtag #5MileChallenge and tag us (@JESSICASMITHTV and @SparkPeople) to check in with us via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
And I'd love to walk with you during the challenge too! Please check out my line of fun and effective fitness walking DVDs here on for more mileage options.
They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! Let's start walking, #5MileChallenge members!

About the Author

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, and now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit to learn more about her fun, results driven programs for all levels of exercisers.