30-Minute Walking Workout for Arthritis

Couple Walking Briskly in Park
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Arthritis pain leads many people to become less active, which is the exact opposite of what they should do. A 150 minutes per week of moderately-intense and joint-friendly activity (such as brisk walking) is recommended for those with arthritis by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Arthritis Foundation.

One in 10 American adults have arthritis-attributable activity limitations, and it's even higher in the one third of Americans who are obese, according to the CDC.

For 10 million people, that means they have difficulty walking for a quarter mile. Each extra pound puts four more pounds of stress on the knees, according to the CDC.

Walking for 30 minutes at a time, five times per week is the recommended goal. If it is too challenging at first, it can be broken into 10-minute walks, three times per day.

Consult your health care team to see if walking is the right exercise for you and whether any precautions are necessary for your individual circumstances.

Walking Goal: To walk for 30 minutes at a moderate pace, five or more days per week. Use a pedometer to aim for 6000 steps each day in a dedicated walking workout.

What You Need for a Walking Workout

  • Walking Shoes: Get fitted for flat and flexible athletic shoes. The right athletic shoes will allow you to move with greater comfort and less pain. Stiff shoes fight your natural foot motion, while shoes that are too flimsy don't give you the cushioning and stability you need. Visit the best running shoe store in your area to get fitted by experts. If you have been wearing slip-ons or velcro-tabbed shoes to avoid having to bend over to lace them, discuss this with the shoe store as there are athletic shoes with these features and lacing systems that may be easier for you to use.
  • Walking Clothing: Wear clothing that gives you good freedom of movement. Wear a fitness t-shirt and fitness shorts, warm-up pants or yoga pants.
  • Walking Poles: A pair of walking poles can help relieve pressure on your joints and maintain your shoulder mobility. You will also burn more calories per mile at the same speed, enhancing your workout if you aren't able to walk briskly.

Walking Workout for Arthritis

  1. Walking Warm-Up and Stretches: You may be stiff and need to wake up your joints and muscles before starting your walk. A warm shower before you begin may help. Begin by getting up and circling the room a few times or marching slowly in place. Then use the stretching routine to prepare your body for a walk.
  2. Adjust Your Posture: Good body alignment is key to walking with less pain and strain on your joints. You may have developed bad posture habits with arthritis and it can help to practice good posture in front of a mirror. Stand up straight, with your eyes forward and your chin parallel to the ground. Engage your core muscles by pulling in your stomach and tilting your hips slightly forward as you tuck in your rear. Now straighten up by pretending there is a string attached to the top of your head and, with feet flat on the ground, raise yourself up from your hips to the top of your head. Relax your shoulders with another couple of shrugs. Bend your arms. Now you are ready to walk.
  1. Walk at an Easy Pace for 3 to 5 Minutes: Continue your warm-up with an easy walking pace, bringing blood flow to your muscles and joints. Listen to your body and warm up for as long as it takes. If you have been inactive, do this 2-3 times per day at first before building up more time walking.
  2. Speed Up: It may be difficult at first to walk faster than an easy pace, but you will get more exercise benefits if you practice speeding up. Move your arms faster in coordination with your steps to help pick up the pace. A brisk walking pace is one where you are breathing heavier but you can still speak in sentences. Aim for 50% to 70% of maximum heart rate. Use our Heart Rate Zone Calculator to find the right range for your age. Take your exercise pulse to see if you are in the moderate intensity zone. Using walking poles can help boost your heart rate at lower speeds. More: Tips for How to Walk Faster
  3. Duration: Build up your walking minutes. A 10-minute walk is the minimum goal. A 30-minute walk, five days per week is the preferred goal. Walking longer, such as 60 minutes at a time, can help burn stored fat and support weight loss. More: How to Start Walking
  4. Cool Down for 1 to 3 Minutes: Finish your walk by walking at an easy pace. You may want to end with the stretching routine again.

Signs You Should See your Health Care Provider

Pain can be a sign of injury or signal the need for further exercise counseling. The CDC recommends you see your doctor if you are experiencing pain that is sharp, stabbing or constant. If your pain is causing you to limp or lasts more than two hours after exercise, that needs checking. If your pain isn't relieved by medication, rest, or even gets worse at night, it needs checked. Joint swelling, heat or redness are signs you need to see your doctor.

Arthritis Foundation Walk with Ease Program: Use these resources to find local groups to help you become more active, or use their self-study course and online tools.


Jin Qin, ScD1,2; Kristina A. Theis, PhD; Kamil E. Barbour, PhD; Charles G. Helmick, MD; Nancy A. Baker, ScD; Teresa J. Brady, PhD. "Impact of Arthritis and Multiple Chronic Conditions on Selected Life Domains — United States, 2013." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). June 5, 2015.

CDC Arthritis Program - 5 Key Takeaways. Accessed 6/19/15

Physical Activity for Arthritis Fact Sheet: CDC, accessed 6/19/15

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