Walk your way to fitness (2023)

Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health

Ready to reap the benefits of walking? Here's how to get started — and stay motivated.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Can you really walk your way to fitness? You bet! Get started today.

Know the benefits

Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help you live a healthier life.

For example, regular brisk walking can help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve muscle endurance
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve your mood, cognition, memory and sleep
  • Improve your balance and coordination
  • Strengthen immune system
  • Reduce stress and tension

The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits. For example, you may start out as an average walker, and then work your way up to walking faster and walking a mile in a shorter amount of time than an average walker, similar to power walkers. This can be a great way to get aerobic activity, improve your heart health and increase your endurance while burning calories.

You can also alternate periods of brisk walking with leisurely walking. This type of interval training has many benefits, such as improving cardiovascular fitness and burning more calories than regular walking. And interval training can be done in less time than regular walking

Consider your technique

Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here's how you'll look when you're walking:

  • Your head is up. You're looking forward, not at the ground.
  • Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
  • You're swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK.
  • Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
  • You're walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.

Plan your routine

As you start your walking routine, remember to:

  • Get the right gear. Choose shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock.

    Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and gear appropriate for all types of weather, such as layers in cooler weather. Aim to wear moisture-wicking fabrics, which will keep you more comfortable. If you walk outdoors when it's dark, wear bright colors or reflective tape for visibility. Wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses if you're going out during the day.

    (Video) Walk Your Way to Fitness: Cardio

    Some people choose to use an activity tracker, app or pedometer. These can be helpful to track your time, distance, heart rate and calories.

  • Choose your course carefully. If you'll be walking outdoors, avoid paths with cracked sidewalks, potholes, low-hanging limbs or uneven turf.

    If the weather isn't appropriate for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers.

  • Warm up. Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for exercise.
  • Cool down. At the end of your walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to help your muscles cool down.
  • Stretch. After you cool down, gently stretch your muscles. If you'd rather stretch before you walk, remember to warm up first.

Set realistic goals

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:

  • Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater health benefits. But even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide health benefits.
  • Strength training. Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you can't set aside that much time, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day. Any amount of activity is better than none at all. Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefit.

Remember it's OK to start slowly — especially if you haven't been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.

For even more health benefits, aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

Track your progress

Keeping a record of how many steps you take, the distance you walk and how long it takes can help you see where you started from and serve as a source of inspiration. Just think how good you'll feel when you see how many miles you've walked each week, month or year.

Try using an activity tracker, app or pedometer to calculate steps and distance. Or record these numbers in a walking journal.

(Video) Walk Away The Pounds 1 Mile | Walk at Home

Stay motivated

Starting a walking program takes initiative. Sticking with it takes commitment. To stay motivated:

  • Set yourself up for success. Start with a simple goal, such as, "I'll take a 5- or 10-minute walk during my lunch break." When your 5- or 10-minute walk becomes a habit, set a new goal, such as, "I'll walk for 20 minutes after work."

    Find specific times for walks. Soon you could be reaching for goals that once seemed impossible.

  • Make walking enjoyable. If you don't like walking alone, ask a friend or neighbor to join you. If you're energized by groups, join a health club or walking group. You might like listening to music while you walk.
  • Vary your routine. If you walk outdoors, plan several different routes for variety. If you often walk in your neighborhood, consider walking somewhere new, such as a city or state park. Try taking routes with hills or stairs as you become used to walking more. Or walk faster for a few minutes and then slow down for a few minutes and repeat the cycle. If you're walking alone, tell someone which route you're taking. Walk in safe, well-lit locations.
  • Take missed days in stride. If you find yourself skipping your daily walks, don't give up. Remind yourself how good you feel when you include physical activity in your daily routine, and then get back on track.

Once you take that first step, you're on the way to an important destination — better health.

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(Video) Beginner 1 Mile Walk | Walk at Home

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May 19, 2021

  1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  2. Starting a walking program. American College of Sports Medicine. https://www.acsm.org/read-research/resource-library/resource_detail?id=67a24f36-3d2e-465d-ad4e-172553be8f3f. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  3. Walking: A step in the right direction. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/walking-step-right-direction. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Physical activity (adult). Mayo Clinic; 2020.
  5. Why is walking the most popular form of exercise? American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/walking/why-is-walking-the-most-popular-form-of-exercise. Accessed March 2, 2021.
  6. Barough N. Walking for fitness. 2nd ed. DK Publishing; 2017.

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See also

  1. 10,000 steps
  2. 5K training schedule
  3. Exercise warm-up
  4. Aerobic exercise
  5. Aquatic exercises
  6. Buying athletic shoes? Check your arch
  7. Buying new workout shoes? Get the right fit
  8. Choose the right walking shoes
  9. Do you need to warm up before you exercise?
  10. Exercise: Are you working hard enough?
  11. Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour
  12. Exercise: How much do I need?
  13. Exercise intensity
  14. Exercising? Take it up a notch
  15. Focus on fit when shoe shopping
  16. How much exercise do you need?
  17. Interval Training
  18. Step it up with an activity tracker
  19. Time for new walking shoes?
  20. Tired of walking alone? Team up!
  21. Walking for fitness: Overcoming setbacks
  22. Walking for fitness: Staying motivated
  23. Walking for fitness: Warm up, cool down
  24. Walking and trackers
  25. Walking with ankle weights? Stop!
  26. Want to get more active? Try an activity tracker
  27. Want to maximize your daily walk?
  28. What's in an athletic shoe?
  29. Whole-body vibration


(Video) Walk Your Way to Fitness: Warm Up


1. Walk Your Way to Fitness: Low Intensity Aerobic Exercise
(National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD))
2. Walk Your Way to Fitness: Flexibility Exercises
(National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD))
3. How To Walk Your Way To 10% Body Fat
(Mike Thurston)
4. Walk Your Way to Weight Loss: Embrace the Journey of Effortless Fitness @Fat2FitGregory
5. Walk Your Way to Fitness: Yoga Poses
(National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD))
6. Walk your way to fitness
(HSE Ireland)


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