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Walking: Take the path to better health

Do you want to be a fitter, healthier you?

"You don't need fancy equipment — just the motivation to move more," says Exercise Physiologist Jody Corpe, M.S., E.P., manager of Lake Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. "You can get the benefits of regular exercise with a simple walking routine."

While most people don't need a doctor's OK before starting a walking program, get a green light from yours if you have a chronic health condition or are over 40 years old and you've been inactive.

Easy steps to start

Eventually, your goal is at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week. That's just five 30-minute walks.

But even a 10-minute casual walk is fine at first.

"Speed isn't important starting out," Corpe says. "You can gradually pick up your pace, time and distance. And as you get more fit, you can add challenges — like heading for the hills to tone your legs."

Here are a few more pointers:

Be kind to your feet. Wear shoes with good arch support and firm, well-cushioned heels.

Start and finish well. Warm up at a slow pace, then walk briskly, and then cool down.

Focus on form. Keep your head up, tummy tucked in and shoulders relaxed. Let your heel hit the ground first, then roll your foot and push off from your toes.

Sticking with it

To stay motivated and make walking a healthy habit:

Make it social. Set up walking dates with friends or check out a local walking club.

Change the scenery. Do you always walk the same neighborhood loop? Head to a nearby park or hiking trail for a fresh perspective.

Track your progress. Whether you count your steps, speed or consistency, seeing how far you've come can be a source of inspiration.

Sources: American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health

Check out these rewards

Walking is a great way to start exercising. Frequent, brisk walks can help:

  • Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight in a healthy range
  • Protect you from heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Boost your mood

Source: National Institutes of Health

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