How Much Walking Is Too Much?

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

If you've just discovered the joy of walking, you may be throwing yourself into it wholeheartedly. But then you may begin to wonder whether there can be too much of a good thing. At what point might you be walking too much? Is there such a thing? See how to structure your walking workouts so you are building your fitness and health rather than tearing yourself down.

Beginners Should Build Their Walking Time Gradually

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.

You can use the 30-Day Quick Start Walking Plan. 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 to reduce health risks, as promoted by health authorities worldwide. You can also use the daily walking schedule, which has a range for beginners through seasoned walkers.

For those over age 65, there is no slacking off in the recommendations. Health authorities 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. See the exercise guidelines for people over age 65.

Can You Walk Too Much?

A common mistake when starting a walking program is beginning by walking too fast or for too long in a session. It's smart to start any training program by slowing down and working 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 fast: Slow down and work on your walking technique. Practice the correct posture and stride.
  • Walking too far: If you haven't been walking at all, start with no more than a 15-minute to 20-minute walk. If you normally do a lot lifestyle walking, then it's acceptable to start with a 30-minute walk. Increase your distance and time walked gradually. It is best to increase your longest walking time in a workout it only by 15 minutes each week (which is a kilometer to a mile of distance for most people).
  • 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 to 60 minutes most days of the week. If your feet, knees, and hips are telling you that walking isn't it, then explore swimming or bicycling as good aerobic alternatives.
  • Too much of a good thing? Overtraining is a risk for people who have the sort of personality that drives them to always be doing more, more, more. Often, they don't know when to quit and can end up with overuse injuries, dehydration, and other problems. If you are prone to overtraining, then you need to schedule your easy days, hard days, and rest day. Stick with a schedule and don't give in to the temptation to do too much, too soon, too often.

    Signs You Are Walking Too Much

    If you are overtraining, the American Council on Exercise lists signs that include excessive fatigue, feeling like you are putting out more effort even with light exercise, chronic muscle or joint aches, and decreased performance. A measurable sign of overtraining is an elevated resting heart rate and one that takes longer than usual to return to normal after exertion. These are signs that you should look at how much you have been exercising and consider taking a rest day and cutting back the duration or intensity of your exercise sessions.

    A Word From Verywell

    It is wonderful to enjoy walking.

    If you can gradually increase your time and speed, with good walking form, you can go from the couch to walking a 5K and even on to a marathon. But the key is to gradually and steadily increase your time. Pay attention to signs of overtraining and you'll be able to keep going for years to come.

    Sources:

    American Council on Exercise. 10 Signs You're Overtraining. https://www.acefitness.org/updateable/update_display.aspx?pageID=634.

    CDC. Physical Activity and Health: The Benefits of Physical Activity https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

    President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Fitness Fundamentals: Guidelines for Personal Exercise Programs. www.fitness.gov.

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