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Increase your energy and get fit with this 4-week walking plan

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | September 28, 2020 | 5 min read | Healthy Lifestyle, Fitness

Woman in workout gear ties her shoelaces

Your step-by-step plan to get healthy.

Walking is one of the simplest exercises you can do — and one of the best! There are many health benefits to walking. It makes your bones, muscles, and joints more resilient. It also helps prevent or improve type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.[1]

Walking helps improve memory and thinking, and may help prevent or improve depression. It’s great for stress relief and can even help you sleep better.[2]

Walking can also help you lose weight. In fact, power walking (along with healthier eating) helped me go from sedentary to active and lose 60 pounds. It was walking that led me to where I am today as a weight loss success story and fitness professional.

I’m an advocate of walking, but I’m also a believer in the power of starting small when you’re getting started with new habits. This 4-week plan starts you off with just 15 minutes of walking during your first week. Then in the following weeks, you’ll gradually increase time and intensity.

Start today, and by this time next month you’ll be amazed at how differently you feel —  stronger, leaner, and more energetic!

READ: Expert tips for getting started with a walking program

Walking intensity scale

In this plan there are three levels of intensity for your walking workouts:

  • EASY – a relaxing type of walking. Gentle effort.
  • MODERATE – Like walking the dog. Moving at a steady pace but not enough to get out of breath. You should be able to talk while walking.
  • FAST – Power walk. Walking at a very brisk. Becoming slightly breathless or only able to say a few words at a time.

When you up your pace to a power walk, it increases the number of calories your body burns during and after exercise. Plus, it helps increase your level of cardio-respiratory fitness.

See my special power walking technique and tips here.

Remember, these speeds are just suggestions. You should always go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. For some, that can change from day to day. Listen to your body. This will help you know when to challenge yourself and when to slow down or rest.

Tips for your 4-week walking workout

  • This workout plan is meant as a general guideline. Take breaks or slow down if you need to.
  • Walk at least 3-4 times a week. If possible, walk daily.
  • Set a regular time to walk. Consider tying your workout time to a daily event. For example, every morning after breakfast is your walking time; or, after work each day you walk your dog. Making it a scheduled part of your daily routine makes a big difference in helping form a habit you will stick with.
  • Drink water before, during and after exercise.
  • Wear supportive, comfortable athletic shoes.
  • I also recommend stretching before and after you walk. See my “Essential Stretches for Walkers and Runners“ for a video you can follow.

Week 1: 15 minutes

Yay, you! Way to go for getting started! Lace up your sneakers and let’s do this thing.

  1. Warm up: 5 minutes – Start with an easy-paced walk for 5 minutes (about 2.5 to 3 mph).
  2. Work phase: 7 minutes – Pick up the pace and walk at a moderate speed (3.25 to 3.75 mph).
  3. Cool down: 3 minutes – Slow down to an easy pace (2.5-3 mph) to let your heart rate come down gradually.

Week 2: 20 minutes

This week we’re adding 5 minutes to your daily time.

  1. Warm up: 5 minutes – Easy-paced walk for 5 minutes (about 2.5 to 3 mph).
  2. Work phase: 12 minutes – Walk at a moderate pace (3.25 to 3.75 mph). See if you can up the pace from what you were doing last week.
  3. Cool down: 3 minutes – Gradually slow down to an easy pace (2.5-3 mph).

Week 3: 25 minutes

Now that you’ve got working out at a moderate pace down, this week we’ll introduce intervals to increase the intensity of your workout. You’re getting more fit!

  1. Warm up: 4 minutes – Easy-paced walk for 4 minutes (about 2.5 to 3 mph).
  2. Work phase: 18 minutes – Walk at a moderate pace (3.25 to 3.75 mph) for 3 minutes, then at a brisk “power walk” pace (4.0-4.5 mph) for 1 minute. Continue alternating 3 minutes of moderate and 1 minute of brisk walking.
  3. Cool down: 3 minutes – Gradually slow down to an easy pace (2.5-3 mph).

Week 4: 30 minutes

This week we are increasing your overall time and adding a few more intervals. By now you should really be feeling a difference in your cardio-respiratory fitness, endurance, and overall energy levels.

  1. Warm up: 3 minutes – Easy-paced walk for 3 minutes (about 2.5 to 3 mph).
  2. Work phase: 24 minutes – Walk at a moderate pace (3.25 to 3.75 mph) for 3 minutes, then at a brisk “power walk” pace (4.0-4.5 mph) for 1 minute. Continue alternating 3 minutes of moderate and 1 minute of brisk walking.
  3. Cool down: 3 minutes – Gradually slow down to an easy pace (2.5-3 mph).

Walk your way to success

You can keep going with this plan by adding on time and intervals to your work phase, gradually working your way up to 45 to 60 minutes.

Remember, any amount of exercise you do — no matter how small — is better than nothing and will benefit you. If walking just 10 minutes a day works better for you, do that.

The goal of this walking plan is to get you started and keep you moving, so that you can establish exercise as a regular habit and experience the physical and mental benefits.

Give it a try, and see how much better you feel!

Sources:

[1] Healthline: What are the Benefits of Walking https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-walking

[2] AARP Healthy Living: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2019/good-reasons-to-get-walking.html