How Much Walking is Too Much?

Walkers Enjoying Nordic Walking in Meadow
Walkers Enjoying Nordic Walking in Meadow. altrendo/Getty Images

Jim writes, "I am 69 yrs old and in good health other than being a little overweight which is why I wanted to complete this program. I have been doing your daily walks. I am on day 13 and have been keeping up just fine.  Is there a point where someone at my age should back off and not "over do it"?  Any guidelines for us "to dumb to know when to quit guys"?  Help."

When you start an exercise program, especially if you haven't been doing anything at all, it's important to start slowly and gradually build up your time and intensity.

We have the 30-Day Quick Start Walking Plan for those who are new to walking any distance. It builds you up to brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. That is the recommended minimum level of exercise for basic health, as promoted by health authorities worldwide. The Walk of Life Program can also be done by beginners, as the daily walking schedule is given in a range for beginners through seasoned walkers.

For those over age 65, there is no slacking off in the recommendations. They still recommend a minimum 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) at least five days a week. Plus, they recommend strength training two days a week and balance and flexibility exercises also. Exercise Guidelines for Over Age 65

But, But, What About Walking Too Much?
Back to the original question, how much is too much? A common mistake is starting off walking too fast or for too long at a session.

That's why I begin any training program by telling you to slow down and work on your walking technique for the first couple of weeks. Getting your posture and stride right at an easy pace is critical to being able to walk faster and longer.

  • Walking too far: If you haven't been walking at all, I recommend starting with no more than a 15 to 20 minute walk. If you get in a lot of lifestyle walking, then it's OK to start with a 30-minute walk.  Increase your longest distance gradually.  It is best to increase it only by 15 minutes each week (which is between a kilometer and a mile distance for most of us).
  • Alternate easy and hard days: The day after your longest walk of the week, take a rest day, work on stretching and flexibility, or just take an easy walk. If you are using the weekly walking workout schedule, you see that any day with a hard workout is followed by an easy day or a rest day.
  • Take a rest day: Listen to your body and take a rest day if you are experiencing fatigue and muscle aches. Get in enough walking to loosen up, but save the longer workouts for the next day.
  • Maybe walking isn't your thing: The key to lifelong fitness is finding the activity you enjoy and will want to do for 30-60 minutes most days of the week. If your feet, knees and hips are telling you that walking isn't it, then explore swimming and bicycling as good aerobic alternatives.
  • Too much of a good thing? Jim worried that he just wouldn't know when to quit. Overtraining is a risk for people who have the sort of personality that drives them to always be doing more, more, more.  If  you are prone to overtraining, then you need to schedule your easy/hard days and your rest day. Stick with a schedule and don't give in to the temptation to do too much, too soon, too often.

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