3 Important Things to Know Before Starting a Walking Program

By , SparkPeople Blogger
That walking trail at the local park has been calling your name since you moved into your house, and your co-workers have already told you how much they love their weekly walking group. You know the benefits and you know you'll love it if you could just get started—but you're not sure exactly how to do that.

Walking is the perfect form of physical activity for many reasons, and the fact that it's accessible to almost everyone is at the top of our list. Whether you're just getting started or want to take your race walking to the next level, it can be a challenging activity for any fitness level when done right. But it's not just as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. To get a proper workout from walking, there are three important questions you'll want to answer before you tie up your sneakers.

How Long?

Twenty minutes is a good starting goal, but it's okay to work up to that level if you're not physically ready. If you're short on time, consider breaking your walks into 10-minute segments throughout the day. As you get stronger, you can continue adding time until you get to 45 minutes. If you're no longer challenged at that point, try new routes, add hills or pick up the pace for short bursts of time to increase the intensity.

How Fast?

The actual speed you're walking isn't as important as how challenging the walk feels. You should be able to answer a question but not comfortably carry on a conversation to be working at a level that provides health-improving benefits. On your next walk, consider experimenting with the Talk Test as a simple way to measure the intensity of your workout.

How Often?

Aim for three days per week if you're just starting out; as you get stronger, you can add another day or two for more of a challenge. Keep in mind that it's important to add variety to your walks. After about four to six weeks of doing the same walk at the same intensity, your body gets acclimated. To avoid a fitness or weight-loss plateaus, it's important to mix things up with new routes, inclines or speeds.

The Do's and Don'ts of Starting a Walking Program

DO wear the right shoes. Ideally you should purchase your walking shoes from a specialty walking store where you can be properly fitted. Specialists will be able to analyze your gait and stride to better recommend a shoe that will help your performance. Shoes typically last 400 to 600 miles, wearing out from the inside first, so be sure to replace them when the time comes.

DON'T focus on speed and distance. When starting out, it's better to celebrate the fact that you're moving. Getting faster and going longer distances will come with consistency and time.   

DO understand the difference between casual walking and walking for exercise. If you can call a friend to catch up during your walk, you might not be walking fast enough to consider it a workout. If having a conversation doesn't feel uncomfortable, consider picking up the pace. Rate of Perceived Exertion is another tool that helps gauge your effort. Aim for three to five on a scale of one to 10.

DON'T do too much too soon. Motivation is typically high when you first start exercising, so it's tempting to jump in with both feet. Without pacing yourself, though, you could experience burnout or injury if you go too hard at first. Take it slow to avoid injury and give your mind and body time to adjust to the changes you're making.

When choosing a walking route, aim for something that is lightly trafficked or has sidewalks for safety. Varied terrain (such as hills for a challenge and flat portions to pick up the pace) is helpful to make it a challenge. If you’re short on time try a walk around the neighborhood, but if you want a scenic view, check out a trail at your local park.

What are you waiting for? If you're ready to do something good for yourself, it's time to lace up those sneakers and head out the door.

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AZMOMXTWO 6/4/2020
thank you Report
LEANJEAN6 6/4/2020
interesting info Report
EMGERBER 6/4/2020
Good recommendations! Report
I walk 30 minutes every morning. Report
DMEYER4 6/4/2020
thanks Report
KOALA_BEAR 6/4/2020
Update: I'm graduated from PT & now walking again 5-6 days. I do 45 min a couple times a week but shorter times w/ more exertion. Swinging or pumping your arms will get your heart rate up. I find that safer as some of the sidewalks near me are irregular where tree roots have pushed them up. Be sure to use sunblock on your exposed skin like hands, neck or chest; also I recommend a good hat for shade that won't blow off when windy. Report
2DAWN4 6/4/2020
I love my walks! Report
SUNSET09 6/4/2020
Walk on, SparkFriends Report
_CYNDY55_ 6/3/2020
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NANCYPAT1 6/3/2020
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KITTYHAWK1949 6/3/2020
I keep planning but not doing... Report
SHOAPIE 6/2/2020
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ARTJAC 6/2/2020
AQUAGIRL08 6/2/2020
Thank you! Report
Just get going! Start 10 minutes out, turn around 10 minutes back. Keep increasing time daily. Day, noon, night...doesn t matter!
Thank you, Spark!
Jinxie Report
JAH1264 6/2/2020
I’m in the 10 minute at a time camp. Too much and feet hurt horribly. Need to find shoes that allow for more walking. Report
PATRICIA-CR 6/2/2020
Walking is the best! Report
ROBERTAB76 6/2/2020
This is a well needed refresher. Report
CUDDY52 6/2/2020
Thanks bunches for the great info.! Report
NANCYPAT1 6/2/2020
Thanks Report
MSROZZIE 6/1/2020
Good need-to-know information! Report
LNIZME0828 6/1/2020
Great information....will be picking up my steps more now! Report
GABY1948 5/31/2020
Great Report
BIKE4HEALTH 5/31/2020
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SHOAPIE 5/31/2020
Great info Report
PICKIE98 5/31/2020
Pace yourself... Report
NANCYPAT1 5/31/2020
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DWROBERGE 5/31/2020
beneficial Report
ZRIE014 5/31/2020
thank you Report
Thank you! Report
BIKE4HEALTH 5/30/2020
Very beneficial Report
KATHYJO56 5/30/2020
A good plan for beginning walkers Report
This sounds like a good start to walking. Report
GOFORGIN 5/30/2020
ok Report
NANCYPAT1 5/30/2020
Thanks Report
1CRAZYDOG 5/30/2020
Love walking. Good, sound advice. Report
FERRETLOVER1 5/30/2020
Thanks. Report
DWROBERGE 5/30/2020
great read Report
ZRIE014 5/30/2020
good advice Report
REDROBIN47 5/29/2020
Good information. Thank you Report
MWHIGGINS 5/29/2020
:) Report
DWROBERGE 5/29/2020
great advice Report
MUGABI123 5/29/2020
Solid advice Report
CECELW 5/29/2020
I walk daily 3-5 miles Report
NANCYPAT1 5/29/2020
Thanks! Report
CECTARR 5/29/2020
Good article Report
ROBBIEY 5/29/2020
Good article Report
CHERYLHURT 5/29/2020
Great Report
AZMOMXTWO 5/29/2020
thank you Report
NEPTUNE1939 5/29/2020
ty Report