Walking is one of the most popular forms of activity for a reason. It is easy to pick up and go, is accessible to most people, and doesn’t require any equipment. Walking is also low-impact, able to be performed by most non-disabled people regardless of their current fitness level, and it feels great.
If you are interested in walking and want to make it a habit, having a well-designed plan that helps build on routine is ideal.
Walking benefits worth noting
Walking for exercise is an excellent way to increase your overall health. The American Heart Association suggests walking as a first step in improving your heart health if you haven’t been physically active.
Walking can help prevent cardiovascular disease among healthy people and people with cardiovascular disease. According to a study on postmenopausal women, walking for a minimum of 40 minutes multiple days per week can reduce the risk of heart failure by up to 25%.
Bone loss is a prominent issue that affects the aging population, especially women, leading to osteoporosis and fractures. Walking is an excellent way to help reduce your risks since it helps improve your bone health as a weight-bearing exercise.
Consistent walking routines can also help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Research shows that walking for 30 minutes each day reduces the risk of this disease by 50%. As well, your blood pressure will likely maintain a healthier range if you commit to a walking routine. Studies have shown that walking can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure with a 6-month consistent routine.
Making walking a habit
Turning the occasional walk into an exercise routine requires you to meet the physical activity guidelines recommended by health experts. For this purpose, you will need to walk for at least two and a half hours each week if this is your only form of exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of sports medicine recommend at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level. A fast-paced walk is considered moderate physical activity. Of course, many people are not quite at the point where they can commit to this amount of physical activity or may not be able to do so at a moderate level.
That’s where a beginner-level training plan comes in. A plan tailored to your current fitness level that helps you build up your fitness will help.
Getting started with a walking workout
Before jumping into a walking training plan, you should have a few things prepared.
First, it’s essential to look at your schedule and determine the days and times you will be able to commit to walking. If you have a hectic schedule, look for ways to reduce your commitments or change how you spend your free time.
For instance perhaps after dinner you and a friend or your partner, or even your whole family can go for an evening walk. Commit to prioritizing your walking routine by finding time in your schedule to make it fit. Even a short time frame of a few days a week is enough to start creating a habit you can build on.
Next, ensure that you have the proper equipment such as comfortable walking shoes, a water bottle, well-fitting comfortable clothing, and any weather-dependent gear such as a windbreaker, raincoat or cold-weather clothing. If you are walking in the dark, be sure you have some reflective clothing as well. Although not necessary, a piece of equipment that is very nice to have is a fitness tracker or pedometer.
These gadgets can help you stay motivated and track your consistency and progress. Many of them also track your resting heart rate and so you will be able to see how your efforts are helping to reduce your resting heart rate, which is an excellent way to measure your current heart health and fitness level.
It’s wise to have a backup indoor walking setting in case of bad weather. When creating a habit, excuses can often get in the way of best intentions, no matter how valid. Having a backup plan will help you stay consistent.
Finally, be sure to speak to your healthcare provider for a checkup and inform them of your intention to begin walking for exercise. This is likely not necessary for most people, but if you have been very sedentary for over a year or are over 65 and do not exercise, it’s best to seek advice from a medical practitioner.
Other reasons to speak to your doctor include having been diagnosed with heart conditions, being pregnant, having high blood pressure, diabetes, chest pain, or if you’ve been experiencing dizzy spells.
4-Week Walking Workout Plan
To build a habit that sticks, consistency is required. This four-week walking plan will outline how many days per week you should walk and a total weekly goal in minutes to aim for.
Try to stick to the program as closely as possible, but don’t let any missed days lead you to give up. If something gets in the way of your commitment, just get back to the routine as soon as possible.
Week One: 50 to 75 Minutes
Walk five days this week at a leisurely pace for 10 to 15 minutes each time. You can rest every couple of days or save your rest days for the busiest date of your week. If you prefer to take weekends off, you can do that instead.
Week Two: 75 to 100 Minutes
Build on last week by adding 5 minutes to your walking workouts most days of the week. You will walk for 15 to 20 minutes each five days with two rest days.
Week Three: 100 to 125 Minutes
Add 5 more minutes to your walking workouts most days of the week. You can opt to add an additional walking day to meet your goal of 100 to 125 minutes this week.
Week Four: 120 to 125 Minutes
Again, add another 5 minutes to each walking workout so that you are walking for 30 minutes at a time five days of the week. If it’s too hard to commit to a 30-minute walk on some days of the week, you can add an additional day or two instead if you feel up to it. Just try to meet the minimum weekly goal of 120 minutes.
Now that you’ve built a solid Hobbit and foundation for fitness, you can repeat this training plan for an additional four weeks but increase your intensity. So, if you’ve been walking at a leisurely pace as described, try to increase your pace and heart rate during at least three of your walking sessions.
Another option would be to add an additional walking day each week that focuses on intensity, walking at a moderate to vigorous pace. Moderate intensity is 64% to 76% of your maximum heart rate. Using a heart rate monitor can help you reach this goal. Another way to measure intensity is the talk test.
With moderate effort, you should be able to speak but not sing during your activity. With vigorous exercise, such as race walking, you will not be able to say more than just a few words at a time during the activity.