How to Walk - The Absolute Beginner Walking Schedule

How Far, How Fast, How Often to Walk

Three Women Get Started Walking
Get Started Walking. Steve Debenport / Creative RF / Getty Images

You've decided to start walking, and we've shown you good walking technique. In this section of our Walking for Beginners lessons, we'll cover:

Walking Schedule for the Absolute Beginner

  • Health goals: Walking a half hour a day or three hours per week is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. Walking seven hours a week is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer and type II diabetes. For this reason,  you should build up to walking for an hour a day, most days of the week.
  • Track your walks: Keeping records will keep you on track.
  • Build a Habit: Walk at least five days a week, even if some days you must decrease your time, in order to build your new healthy habit. Increase the time you spend walking each week before working on speed.

Week 1: Start with a daily 15 minute walk at an easy pace.
Walk five days the first week. We want to build a habit, so consistency is important. Spread out your rest days, such as making day 3 a rest day and day 6 a rest day.
Weekly total goal: 60 - 75 minutes.

Week 2: Add 5 minutes a day so you are walking 20 minutes, 5 days a week. Or you may wish to extend yourself more on some days, followed by a rest day.
Weekly total goal: 75 - 100 minutes.

Week 3: Add 5 minutes a day so you are walking 25 minutes, 5 days a week.
Weekly total goal: 100 - 125 minutes.

Week 4: Add 5 minutes a day to walk 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
Weekly total goal: 125 - 150 minutes.

Snags: If you find any week to be difficult, repeat that week rather than adding more time, until you are able to progress comfortably.

Graduate: Once you are able to walk 30 minutes at a time comfortably, progress to the Weekly Walking Workouts.

How Fast Should Beginners Walk?

Walkers should aim for a brisk walking pace to achieve a moderate-intensity walking workout.

That is associated with the best health benefits of walking. That is usually associated with walking a mile in 20 minutes or less, at a target heart rate of 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

What brisk walking feels like:

  • may be breathing noticeably
  • able to carry on a full conversation while walking
  • not out of breath

If your speed is slower and heart rate lower at first, don't worry. Your first goal is to be able to walk 30-60 minutes a day without injury. We will add speed and intensity later. Be consistent in how often and how far you walk before you try to walk faster.

The target heart rate to achieve for health walking is 50 - 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. Again, if this is difficult at first, go slower and build your time before working on speed.

If at any time during the walk you are experiencing difficulty, slow down further and return to your starting point. Be aware of warning symptoms of problems such as heart attack or stroke and seek medical assistance if needed. It is recommended that you increase your exercise time/intensity by no more than 10 percent per week.

Where to Go Next?

Train for a 5K Walk: This is a popular distance for charity walks and fun runs. Use this plan to train to enjoy these events once you have built up to walking 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

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