Power Walking for Beginners – How to Walk for Better Health
Updated by Stephen Anton PhD on June 24th, 2020
For years, walking has been a favorite choice in the world of exercise.
Whether you walk in a gym, on a treadmill, or out in nature around your neighborhood, it is a great source of exercise.
However, new research states that leisurely walking doesn’t have the heart-healthy results that power walking leads to (1).
“What is power walking?”
Power walking means to walk at a vigorous pace.
The increase in your speed and endurance gives the results of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Let’s stroll through some of the reasons that power walking is best!
Four Power Walking Benefits
Power walking is a great exercise, and like other endurance exercises, it can:
Keep you healthy
Improve your fitness
Increase your heart rate and breathing
Help you do the tasks you need every day
Power Walking Technique
Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements.
Ideally, here is how you should walk:
Your head is up, looking forward and not at the ground
Your neck, shoulders, and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright
You’re swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows
A little pumping with your arms is OK
Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened, and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward
You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe
How to Start Power Walking
For some, walking for the recommended 30 minutes a day might be difficult.
If so, try walking for 10-minute intervals and build up to three times a day.
As your endurance improves, walk longer until you can advance to a single 30-minute walk.
A great target should be a minimum of 60 minutes a week, but as much as 150 minutes a week.
As your walk becomes easier, add new challenges, such as climbing a hill, extending the time you walk, increasing your walking pace, and an additional day of walking.
Keep Track of How Much You Are Walking
Step counters can help you keep track of your walking, set goals, and measure your progress.
Most inactive people get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day.
Try wearing a step counter for a few days to see how you’re doing.
You will be surprised by your current step levels.
If you get:
Fewer than 5,000 steps a day
Gradually add 3,000 to 4,000 more steps a day
About 8,000 steps a day
You’re probably meeting the recommended activity target
10,000 or more steps a day
You can be confident that you’re getting an adequate amount of endurance activity
10,000 steps a day comfortably
Try for 15,000 steps a day, which would put you in the high activity group
Plan Your Walking Routine
As you start your walking routine, remember to:
1) Get the right gear
Choose shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock
Wear comfortable clothes and gear appropriate for various types of weather
If you walk outdoors when it’s dark, wear bright colors or reflective tape for visibility
2) Choose your course carefully
If you’ll be walking outside, avoid paths with cracked sidewalks, potholes, low-hanging limbs, or uneven turf
If the weather isn’t appropriate for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers
Walk at a slow pace for five to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for exercise
At the end of your walk, walk at a slow pace for five to 10 minutes to help your muscles cool down
After you cool down, gently stretch your muscles
If you prefer to stretch before you walk, remember to warm up first
Set Realistic Walking Goals
For most healthy adults, the new research guidelines recommend at least:
150 minutes of aerobic activity per week
75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week
Or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
You can spread activity throughout the week.
The guidelines also recommend strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups at least twice a week.
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
If you can’t set aside that much time, try several 10-minute sessions throughout the day.
Remember, it’s OK to start slowly — especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly.
You might start with five minutes a day the first week and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.
Five Walking Activities to Stay Active
Walking is a simple way to stay active.
You can do it alone, with friends, even with your dog!
Try one of the following activities to get active today: Nordic walking, hiking, walking the dog, mall walking, and race walking.
Four Rules to Stay Motivated
Starting a walking program takes initiative.
Sticking with it takes commitment.
To stay motivated:
Rule 1: Set yourself up for success
Start with a simple goal, such as, “I’ll take a 10-minute walk during my lunch break.”
When your 10-minute walk becomes a habit, set a new goal, such as, “I’ll walk for 20 minutes after work”
Soon you could be reaching for goals that once seemed impossible
Rule 2: Make walking enjoyable
If you don’t enjoy solitary walks, ask a friend or neighbor to join you
If you’re invigorated by groups, join a health club
You might like listening to music while you walk
Rule 3: Vary your routine
If you walk outdoors, plan several different routes for variety
If you’re walking alone, be sure to tell someone which route you’re taking
Walk in safe, well-lit locations
Rule 4: Take missed days in stride
If you find yourself skipping your daily walks, don’t give up
Remind yourself how good you feel when you are moving
Keep in mind that according to this research, power walking (vigorous walking) is best to reduce cardiac risks.
You need to be doing this type of exercise at least several times a week for 30 minutes each, but the most valuable is 150 minutes a week.
By doing this exercise, you can expect to be feeling better, giving your body the workout it needs and reducing your risk for heart disease.
So, to walk or not? I say walk, and walk a lot!