Starting a Walking Program

It's easy to include walking in your everyday activities and experience the many benefits of regular walking.

Start off slow

Introduce your body to fitness walking gradually. If you’ve been inactive for a while, are pregnant, or have an existing chronic medical condition talk to your health care provider before beginning any walking or exercise program.

Start with slow 10-minute walks in your neighbourhood then gradually increase the length of your walks. Experts suggest increasing the length of your walk by 10- to 20% every few weeks, working up to a goal of 30- to 60-minute walks. Once you’re comfortable with the length of your walk, try increasing your speed. Download the Ontario Pedometer Challenge "Go the Extra Mile!" (PDF 1.2MB) brochure for a sample walking program.

How much walking should I do?

How much walking you should do depends on your age and fitness level. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults recommends accumulating at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week to achieve health benefits.

Take a look at the chart below. Your effort should be moderate- to vigorous-intensity for you to stay healthy:

Very Light Intensity Light Intensity Moderate Intensity Vigorous Intensity Maximum Intensity
Strolling
Dusting
Light walking
Volleyball
Easy gardening
Stretching
min 150 minutes / week Sprinting
Racing
Brisk Walking
Biking (slower speeds)
Raking leaves
General gardening
Swimming
Dancing
Tennis (doubles)
Race walking
Walking uphill
Jogging, running
Biking (faster speeds)
Hockey
Basketball
Fast Swimming
Fast Dancing
Tennis (singles)

Remember, more physical activity is best, but shorter periods of exercise you do throughout the day will also benefit your health. When you’re really busy, try to fit several 10-minute exercise sessions into your schedule.

How should I feel when walking?

Adjust your walking effort so that your body temperature and breathing stays in the yellow range:

Very Light Intensity Light Intensity Moderate Intensity Vigorous Intensity Maximum Intensity
No change from rest state

Normal Breathing
Starting to feel warm

Slight increase in breathing rate
min 150 minutes / week Very hot/perspiring heavily
Completely out of breath
Warmer

Greater increase in breathing rate

According to your own personal capacity, a 5 or 6 on a scale of 0–10

You can talk, but not sing your favourite song
Quite warm

More out of breath

According to your own personal capacity, a 7 or 8 on a scale of 0–10

You will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath

How fast should I walk?

While walking at any pace is good for your health, brisk walking can be particularly beneficial.

Brisk walking means walking so that you breathe a little faster, feel warmer and have a slightly faster heart beat. You should always be able to breathe comfortably and hold a conversation as you walk.

Increasing the intensity of your walks

Increasing the duration and frequency of your walks and walking uphill will increase the intensity of your walking routine.

Increase Duration and Frequency

Extend your walk by walking further or for longer periods of time. If you can't work long walks into your weekly schedule, try shorter walks on more days of the week.

Remember, the more physical activity provides greater health benefits. Health benefits can be felt at minimum of 150 minutes per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

Brisk/Speed Walking

Increasing the speed of your walks will help improve your fitness level.

Start walking for 10 minutes at your normal pace, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of brisk speed-walking. Breathe normally, keep your strides short and pump your arms vigorously to speed up your pace. Return to your normal pace for 10 minutes at the end of your walk. If 10 to 15 minutes of speed walking is too fast at first, practice over short distances until you can walk comfortably at 7 to 9 km/h.

Climbing/Uphill Walking

Climbing hills or stairs is the most vigorous form of walking. Just be sure to work climbing or uphill walking into your routine gradually.

Climbing puts extra strain on the stomach, buttocks, lower back and leg muscles, so be sure to stretch these muscles in addition to your regular warm-up before you walk.

Making walking a routine

Make walking part of your daily routine by:

  • Walking to run errands or do short-distance trips. Consider walking every time you plan to use your car.
  • Taking a walk at lunch and eating in a park. Or walk during breaks at work.
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Parking your car further from the entrance to a store or building.
  • Getting off the bus a few stops before your destination.
  • Walking the kids to school.
  • Keeping a pair of walking shoes at work.

Sources:
Ontario Active Living
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines

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