Walk for your health

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Free. Easy. Flexible.

If you're thinking about starting a fitness routine, walking is a great way to start. It's easy, free, and can be done anywhere, anytime, alone or with friends. Best of all, it can boost your health. Walking briskly:

  • is good for your heart, muscles, and bones
  • burns almost as many calories as running at a moderate pace
  • is gentle on your joints

Even walking slowly (about 2 miles per hour) is good for your body and your mind.

Start a walking routine

Take time to warm up. Warm-ups help to prevent muscle strain. Start slowly, and for the first 5 to 10 minutes of your walk, gradually speed up your pace.

Walking shoesWalk at a moderate pace. If you think you're going at a moderate place, you probably are. You should be able to carry on a conversation. If you can sing, walk faster. If you can't talk comfortably, slow down. You can also check your heart rate.

Explore walking routes. Start small and build up to 30 to 40 minutes — or 2 to 3 miles — of brisk walking at least 5 days a week.

How do you know how far you're going? Walking at a moderate pace differs for everyone, but most people can walk 2 miles in 30 minutes, or about 15 minutes a mile.

  • If you're walking in the city, 12 blocks is about a mile.
  • Know a route that's a mile? See how long it takes you to walk it, and you'll know the approximate distance of your other routes. Make allowances if the route's hilly.
  • Track how much you walk with a pedometer. One study showed that a pedometer can also increase how much you walk each day by 1 mile. 

Don't skip the cool-down. When you're almost done, gradually slow your pace to prevent dizziness. Take a few minutes and do some strengthening and flexibility exercises.

Source: Adapted with permission from Group Health Cooperative

Reviewed by: Craig Robbins, MD, November 2018