Walking is the least daunting form of exercise.
It’s cheap; it’s easy on the knees and requires no sporty coordination. Learn how to walk for fun, for good health, for fitness and for weight loss.
Here is an eight-week program that can be customized to suit different body types and lifestyles.
Now there’s no excuse not to get moving!
- Walking for fitness and health, you should walk for 30-60 minutes most days of the week.
- If you are an absolute beginner who is not already walking for up to 30 minutes, use the walking advice in the Absolute Beginners Tutorial below to guide how long you should walk to build up your endurance.
- You should also seek medical advice before beginning an exercise and nutrition program.
This section will get you putting one foot in front of the other. Walking technique for the street, track, or treadmill is the same. You want to walk with good posture, using arm and foot motion that will propel you forward with good power and no wasted effort.
How you hold your body is important to walking comfortably and easily. With good posture, you will be able to breathe easier and you will avoid back pain.
- Stand up straight.
- Think of being a tall and straight. Do not arch your back.
- Do not lean forward or lean back. Leaning puts strain on the back muscles.
- Eyes forward, not looking down, rather 20 feet ahead.
- Chin up (parallel to the ground). This reduces strain on neck and back.
- Shrug once and let your shoulders fall and relax, your shoulders slightly back.
- Suck in your stomach.
- Tuck in your behind and rotate your hip forward slightly. This will keep you from arching your back.
Arm motion can lend power to your walking, burning 5-10% more calories and acting as a balance to your leg motion.
- Bend your elbow 90 degrees.
- Hands should be loose in a partially closed curl, never clenched.
- Clenching your fists can raise your blood pressure and should be avoided.
- With each step, the arm opposite your forward foot comes straight forward, not diagonally.
- As the foot goes back, the opposite arm comes straight back.
- Keep your elbows close to your body – don’t “chicken wing.”
- Your forward hand should not cross the centre point of your body.
- Your hand when coming forward should be kept low, not higher than your breastbone.
- Many poor examples of arm motion are seen with walkers pumping their arms up high in the air, this does not help propel you.
- If at first you find adding arm motion tiring, do it for 5 to 10 minutes at a time and then let your arms rest.
Taking a Step
The walking step is a rolling motion.
- Strike the ground first with your heel.
- Roll through the step from heel to toe.
- Push off with your toe.
- Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.
- Flexible shoes will ensure you are able to roll through the step.
- If your feet are slapping down rather than rolling through the step, your shoes are most likely too stiff.
- At first, your shin muscles may tire and be sore until they are strengthened.
When practicing a good walking stride, the first key is to avoid overstriding, which is taking longer steps to increase speed. Overstriding is inefficient and it is potentially harmful.
Take more, smaller steps rather than lengthening your stride. Your stride should be longer behind your body, where your toe is pushing off, rather than out in front of your body. This is because your forward leg has no power, while your back leg is what is driving you forward. You want to get the full power out of the push from the back leg, with the foot rolling through the step from heel to toe. Fast walkers train themselves to increase the number of steps they take per second and to get full use out of the back part of the stride.
- Start out at a slow, easy pace for each walking session.
- Allow your muscles to warm up before you stretch, add speed or hills.
- Warm up for 5 minutes at this easy pace.
Stretching will add flexibility and can make your walking more comfortable.
Warm up for 5 minutes at an easy walking pace before stretching, never stretch cold muscles or you risk tearing them.
Incorporate mobility exercises designed to take a muscle and joint through its range of motion. You will start at the top of your body and work your way down.Find an upright pole or fence or wall that will support you for leaning into on some stretches.
For the final 5-10 minutes of your walk, finish with an easy walking pace.
At the end of your walk you may want to repeat the stretches you did after your warm-up.
You’ve decided to start walking, you’ve learned how to walk, and now for:
Schedule: How far and how often to walk.
The Absolute Beginner Schedule
Walking a half hour a day or 3 hours per week is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. Walking 7 hours a week is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer and Type II diabetes. For this reason, I recommend that you build up to walking an hour a day, most days of the week.
Track your walks:
Keeping records will keep you on track.
Build a Habit:
Walk at least 5 days a week, even if some days you must decrease your time, in order to build your new healthy habit. Increase the time you spend walking each week before working on speed.
Start with a daily 15 minute walk at an easy pace.
Walk five days the first week. We want to build a habit, so consistency is important. Spread out your rest days, such as making day 3 a rest day and day 6 a rest day.
Weekly total goal: 60 – 75 minutes.
Add 5 minutes a day so you are walking 20 minutes, 5 days a week. Or you may wish to extend yourself more on some days, followed by a rest day.
Weekly total goal: 75 – 100 minutes.
Add 5 minutes a day so you are walking 25 minutes, 5 days a week.
Weekly total goal: 100 – 125 minutes.
Add 5 minutes a day to walk 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
Weekly total goal: 125 – 150 minutes.
If you find any week to be difficult, repeat that week rather than adding more time, until you are able to progress comfortably.
Once you are able to walk 30 minutes at a time comfortably, progress to the next level.