Before cars, people generally walked wherever they needed to go. But today, cars and other motor vehicles have taken over. Although wheeled transportation has made our lives easier in some ways, our bodies miss all that walking. Walking is a wonderful form of exercise. It gets your heart rate up without punishing your joints, it's easy on your wallet, and it can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors.
If you are new to exercise, walking may be the perfect place to start. A good walking plan for beginners can provide you with a detailed roadmap to get you started on improving your overall health. So lace up your shoes and let's get started!
Why Should I Walk?
Your body benefits from physical activity. Exercise helps you to build muscle, it strengthens your heart and lungs, and can even improve your mood. If you work out with friends, it is also a wonderful way to build social relationships and connection.
There are countless workouts to choose from, but if you're a beginner, workouts that involve complex movements or equipment (like yoga, pilates, or cycling) can seem intimidating. And higher intensity workouts, like running, might seem overwhelming as well.
Walking, on the other hand, is a great workout for those who are new to exercise. It is budget-friendly, you don't need any fancy equipment, and you don't have to learn complicated steps or movements.
Walking can also help you:
- Improve your mental health
- Lose body fat
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Retain bone mass (slow osteoporosis)
- Support joints
You have so many reasons to start walking. If you're new to the idea, just remember: you're not alone. There are plenty of resources to help you get started and stay on track.
Sample Beginner Walking Plan
Are you ready to get started? This walking plan for beginners starts slowly and gradually increases your exercise time. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends starting with taking an easy 5-20 minute walk six days a week and building up to more strenuous walks for longer periods of time. However, any walking is better than no walking. Take a look at this sample walking schedule you could follow to build up your endurance.
|Beginner Walking Plan|
|Week 1|| |
Take a 10-minute walk at an easy pace 5 days this week.
|Week 2|| |
Take one 10-minute easy walk and a second 10-minute brisk walk 5 days this week.
|Week 3|| |
Take one 15-minute easy walk and a second 15-minute brisk walk 5 days this week.
|Week 4|| |
Take two 15-minute brisk walks 5 days this week.
|Week 5|| Take two 15-minute brisk walks 6 days this week. During one of your walks, spend about half the time power-walking (walking very fast).
|Week 6|| Take two 15-minute brisk walks 6 days this week. Power-walk about half the time during each walk.
Feel free to adjust this sample walking plan. For some people, it might seem too hard or for others it may be too easy. The most important part of an effective walking plan is consistency. Set goals that fit your needs and your lifestyle, then work to reach them. You can adjust this schedule as you'd like.
Tips for Beginning Walkers
Go ahead and chuckle...of course you know how to walk. But if you can focus on your walking form during your workouts, you'll get more out of each session. Implementing good posture and pace can make a big difference in how much you build towards good health and fitness. Take a look at some tips from Berkley University Health and other experts to make your walks more productive.
Maintain Good Posture
When you walk, keep your shoulders back and relaxed---not hunched forward. Keep your head in a neutral position, with your focus looking forward. This will help you to keep your spine in proper alignment and your muscles working together in harmony.
Pay Attention to Foot Placement
Try to picture a wide, imaginary line running between your feet as you walk - something like train tracks. With each step, keep your feet aligned with that line or those tracks. This will keep you from overusing your hip and back muscles.
Keep a Consistent Stride
Each long, powerful step you take is a stride. Stride length is often addressed by walking coaches. You can calculate your stride length in extreme detail, or you can feel it out. Most essentially, try to keep your stride length the same no matter how fast you walk. Don't slap your feet down. Instead, put your foot down heel-first, then roll onto the ball of your foot and repeat on the other side.
Use Your Arm Swing
Swinging your arms while you walk can help you burn 5-10% more calories, according to Berkley. Keep your arms slightly bent and swing them in opposition to your legs. Your forearm should brush your hip at the bottom of the arc, and your hand should be chin-level at the top.
Ramp Up Speed
Once you get used to walking, try to increase your pace to a brisk walk. You know your pace is brisk if you can talk but can't sing. This small change can lead to big improvements in your health.
Follow Safety Guidelines
If you walk outside, take steps to keep yourself safe.
- Be easy to see: wear bright colors or reflective gear.
- Cross streets at crosswalks.
- Walk in daylight or with a partner.
- Walk on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing oncoming traffic as far to the side as possible.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat.
How to Stick to Your Beginner Walking Plan
Walking will become a habit the more you do it. It can take about two months to form a new habit. While that may sound like a while, once you get used to the new routine, you will find it much easier to keep it up. And thankfully, you have a lot of motivational helpers to choose from.
- Apps: Peruse your app store and see if any walking apps suit you. These apps can help you plot your course, record your distance, and can remind you to walk on your goal days. Popular apps like MapMyWalk are free and simple to use.
- Fitness watch: Electronic devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit can measure your heartbeat, track your steps, and time your workouts.
- Music: Pop in your earbuds and turn on your favorite tunes. Whether you like classical or hip-hop, country or EDM, music can help get your legs moving and make the time fly by.
- Variety: If you usually walk on a treadmill, try mixing it up now and then by hitting the pavement. If you normally walk in your neighborhood, try driving to a local park or downtown area to walk sometimes. Keeping variety in your workout will help it feel like less of a chore.
- Walking group: If personal accountability and gabbing while you walk are your jam, join a walking group. These groups come in all areas and sizes, and might be worth a try!
No matter what your motivation, find what gets you moving and if it stops working, try something new.
Your walking journey could be just ahead of you. You can use some of these suggestions, or make some that fit you better. Find a way to stay motivated and have fun getting healthy!