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How to Start Walking for Exercise

Walking is great exercise and can be accomplished by almost anyone. This article assumes you are starting a walking program to improve your health.


  1. Set your expectations reasonably. If you have been sedentary for a long time (i.e. your idea of walking is to and from your couch to your fridge) you will want to start out slowly and for short distances.
  2. Pick an easy first walk. You want to be sure that no matter how far you get from your starting point, you are able to get back there. Walking on an oval track no more than a quarter mile around should be perfect.
  3. Pay no attention to how far you walk, at least not yet. It matters more that you walk for a longer period of time – even if it’s over a short distance. Faster and further will come later.
  4. Set a time period that you know you can make. Do not worry how short that period is. Just keep moving until you reach it. 2-5 minutes each day as a start is fine. You will increase that time from week to week.
  5. Increase your time each session until you are able to sustain a 10 minute walk. Again, do not fret if you can’t go longer than the day before. Set the goal and keep at it and you will reach it faster than you think. After reaching 10 minutes, the increases may take a bit longer; However, try to increase your time by 5 minutes each week.
  6. After you get to walking 45 minutes a day, you will work on speed and difficulty. As you move off the oval and onto the city streets, you will encounter hills and declines, and that will increase the difficulty in your walk.
  7. Learn your maximum pulse rate (it depends on your age, not your weight) and try to keep your pulse at 65-75% of your maximum pulse rate. If you are under it, you are walking too slow; if you are above it, you can, if you wish, slow down. Again, weight loss and aerobic health will come through sustained effort, not through increased speed or distance.
  8. Try interval training where you walk for two minutes then rest for two minutes. Every day or two add an interval until you reach your desired goal of total time, including rest periods. As you become fit, reduce your rest periods until the rest periods are gone.


  • Bend your knees to find balance.
  • Walk with a good posture. Stand completely straight, put your shoulders back, and take a long stride.
  • Try to walk no less than 3 times a week. 6-7 times is not too much.
  • On weekends or holidays, try to increase your walking time to an hour or more. On some walks, try to interval train by walking much faster for 30 to 60 seconds, then go back to your normal gait.
  • Be sure to make notes about your walk: note your route, the weather, homes you appreciated, animals or wildlife or plant life you observed, and the thoughts and feelings you experienced, and keep them in a log along with your max pulse and your max time spent on the walk.
  • Try using an iPod or other MP3 player to add entertainment to the walk. Books on tape make the walk go by faster and you may want to walk longer
  • To find your target heart rate, take 220 and subtract your age. That is your maximum heart rate. Then, multiply that number by 0.8 and that is your target heart rate. For example, if you are 40 years old, your max. heart rate is 180. Your target heart rate is 144.


  • Before undertaking this or any other exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor, especially if you haven’t been physically active in more than 6 months.
  • Be prepared for your walk. Take water with you. Also take along a whistle in case you get into trouble with dogs or unsavory people. Carrying a cell phone is also a good idea.
  • If you are walking and become short of breath, slow down or stop. Ask for help if you need it.
  • Don’t carry weights with you as you walk. This extra weight throws your gait out of balance and is the leading cause of needing orthopedic surgery.
  • Be sure to wear proper footwear. Sandals, flip-flops, and even fashion athletics do not support the various muscles, tendons, and joints in your foot and can therefore cause strain and injury.


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