Here’s how to get the most benefits from your walking routine

Here’s how to get the most benefits from your walking routine

Whether you’re looking to start exercising or to keep moving on your rest days, walking is an easy activity that can be adaptable for all fitness levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or roughly 30 minutes per day five days per week.

If you spend that time walking, it might even help you live longer. Older adults were 67% less likely to die of any cause if they were moderately or vigorously physically active for at least 150 minutes per week compared with those who exercised less, according to recent research from the American Heart Association.

The physical of benefits of walking are numerous including:

  • Reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Managing your weight
  • Improving management of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol
  • Lowering stress levels

“Walking can be an effective form of exercise on its own or something you can add to your fitness routine,” says Dr. Katie Thompson, an internal medicine physician at Aurora Internal Medicine in Plymouth, WI.

Before beginning a walking routine, it’s helpful to ask yourself what’s your goal for walking.

“If you’re looking to get off the couch and move your body, a leisurely walk might be fine whereas if you want to lose weight or get your heart rate up, you’ll want to incorporate intervals and strength training in your walk,” explains Dr. Thompson.

When it’s time for your walk, be sure to:

  • Make time to stretch: Spend a few minutes stretching your hip flexors, hamstrings and quads.
  • Mix up the pace: Begin with an easy walk, then about half way through alternate between 30-60 seconds of speed walking followed by a minute at your normal pace. “These short bursts will help you burn more calories than walking at the same pace throughout the duration of your walk,” says Dr. Thompson.
  • And add more steps: Slowly progress your walking routine by adding an extra minute each week until you meet your goal.
  • Work in some strength training: Light weights, wrist weights or resistance bands can help work your upper body or enhance the muscles in your lower body you’re already using during your walk.
  • Stay hydrated: Don’t forget to bring with your water bottle and take breaks.
  • Stretch one more time: At the end of your walk, close out with another stretch session before heading home.

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  1. Gloria Picchetti September 3, 2021 at 7:40 pm · Reply

    As an extremely healthy senior I count not driving as the best way to stay healthy.

  2. Great article! It reminded me of the importance of stretching before a walk. I’m always looking to burn more calories. Thanks for the information about introducing short bursts of power walking to accomplish that. I’m going to start tomorrow!

  3. This is a great article. I have found that walking is my go-to exercise and I’m loving it! Last year, I lost 22lbs! This year my goal is to lose 25lbs. I will work on adding the intermittent bursts this week.
    I also find that listening to an e-book or pod cast works better than listening to music.
    I have added weights and currently use 2-3lb hand weights. Is there a recommendation on how much weight to add? I don’t want to injure my shoulders. or build up too much muscle.

  4. Eric Smiltneek April 26, 2022 at 1:06 pm · Reply

    Nice Article! Several doctors throughout AdvocateAurora are involved in a national program called Walk with a Doc. This program with started 15 years ago by a cardiologist in Ohio as a way to model healthy behavior and interact in a meaningful way with his patients. If you are interested in the program, I have hosted a walk for elementary school students for the past 4 year and love the program and the people running it.

  5. Gary J Vandervest April 26, 2022 at 4:57 pm · Reply

    I have a dog. Need I say more? I walk about five miles every day which come to about 35 miles a week.

  6. A reference to type of stretching would be helpful 🙂

About the Author

Vicki Martinka Petersen
Vicki Martinka Petersen

Vicki Martinka Petersen, health enews contributor, is a digital copywriter on the content team at Advocate Aurora Health. A former newspaper reporter, she’s worked in health care communications for the last decade. In her spare time, Vicki enjoys tackling her to be read pile, trying new recipes, meditating, and planning fun activities to do in the Chicago area with her husband and son.