20-Minute Walking Workout

When, Where, How, and Why to Walk for Exercise

A brisk daily walk is an easy way to burn calories and slash your health risks. One 20-minute walk per day, at a brisk pace, will boost you from the deadly "inactive" category. This type of walk will cover at least one mile and add 2000 to 3000 steps to your daily step count. It will burn 70 to 100 calories, depending on your weight.

A large study showed that a brisk 20-minute walk each day could reduce the risk of early death by as much as 30%. Learn how to do this, and then extend it to a 30-minute brisk walk as is recommended for daily exercise.

What Is Brisk Walking?

To count as brisk, your walk should be at a 20 minutes per mile pace (3mph) or more. More precisely, your heart rate should be in the moderate intensity zone, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being from 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

Find out what pulse rate matches this zone for you with a target heart rate chart. Take your pulse after a few minutes of brisk walking to see whether you are in a moderate intensity zone. Your breathing should be heavier than usual, but you should still be able to speak in full sentences.

Getting into the brisk walking zone may take a little bit of work if you're not accustomed to walking at an increased pace. If you are having trouble getting into the brisk walking zone, you may be:

  • Not walking fast enough: Use these tips for how to walk faster to pick up your pace.
  • Too fit: A walking pace may not be enough for you to reach the moderate intensity zone. You may need to add incline to a treadmill workout or use a route with hills and stairs for an outdoor workout. If that still doesn't work, it might be time to switch to running.
  • Unable to walk fast or jog: Using fitness walking poles or Nordic walking can raise your heart rate at a slower pace.
  • Wearing the wrong shoes: Stiff shoes and flimsy sneakers don't allow your feet to move correctly for a powerful walking stride. Get fitted for flat and flexible athletic shoes at the best running shoe store in your area.
  • Wearing the wrong clothing: Walking clothing needs to give you freedom of movement and wick away sweat. Jeans or dress clothing are often too restrictive and don't allow your legs to move fast enough.

Benefits of Walking for Exercise

From increased movement to improved health, there are multiple reasons why incorporating a walking routine into your workouts is worth your time.

Aids in Fat Loss

Whether it's outside or indoors on a treadmill, walking can be a great way to incorporate more movement into your day. Studies have also found that moderate-intensity walking helps to reduce abdominal obesity.

Improves Mood

When paired with meditation, or even on its own, walking helps improve mood and emotions. In a 2018 study published in the journal Health Promotion Perspectives, researchers found that 10 minutes of walking and meditation had a positive effect on improving mood state in study participants.

Increases Life Expectancy

A 2022 study explored the specific effects of brisk walking on longevity and life expectancy and found that adding 10 minutes of brisk walking into your daily routine can increase life expectancy.

In the study, which included 405,981 participants, researchers found that walking reduced cardiovascular disease and mortality risks. Brisk walking—when compared to slow walking—can add up to 20 years to life expectancy.

When and Where to Walk

There are lots of ways to incorporate a regular walking routine into your schedule. Including some variety helps keep you from getting bored and makes your plan more flexible.

Best Times to Walk

Find the best time to make walking part of your daily schedule.

  • Morning: Try a brisk walk before work or while walking the dog.
  • Lunchtime: A brisk walk is perfect for breaking up long bouts of sitting at work or school.
  • Evening: Walk off the stress of the day after work or dinner.

Enjoy two 15-minute brisk walks, 5 days per week and you will achieve the minimum recommended level of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for good health.

Where to Walk

While outdoor walking has its advantages—you'll enjoy time in nature, fresh air, and scenery—you can take a walk anywhere with the right equipment and planning.

  • Treadmill: Head to the gym or use your at-home machine to complete your workout at home on days when an outside walk isn't feasible.
  • Walking in place: If you don't have equipment and want to work out at home, consider walking in place.
  • Mall walking: Take advantage of an indoor route, air conditioning, and (often) a group of companions by moving your walking routine to your nearest mall.

20-Minute Walking Workout

Your goal is to walk for 20 continuous minutes at a brisk pace of 15 to 20 minutes per mile (3 to 4 mph) with your heart rate at 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. You can use this workout on a treadmill or outdoors.

  1. Prepare to walk: If you have been sitting for a while, loosen up for a minute before you go for a walk. Start at the top with a few shrugs and shoulder circles to loosen your neck and shoulders. If you prefer a full stretching routine, use these walking warm-up stretches.
  2. Focus on the right posture: Posture is the key to brisk walking. Posture won't just let you speed up to a brisk pace, but also enables deep breathing. Stand up straight, suck in your gut, tuck in your butt, put your eyes forward, and keep your chin parallel to the ground.
  3. Start at an easy pace for 1 to 3 minutes: Warming up at an easy pace allows you to adjust your walking posture and get the blood flowing to your leg muscles. You may want to extend this easy pace if you still feel muscle or joint stiffness.
  4. Speed up to a brisk pace for 20 minutes: As you speed up, use arm motion to set your walking pace. Your feet will move as fast as your arms move.
  5. Take your pulse: Check after 2 minutes to see if you are in the moderate intensity zone. If you are not yet in the zone, speed up your arm motion to pick up the pace. Check again every 5 minutes. Pay attention to how hard you are breathing when you are in the moderate-intensity zone so you can gauge it without taking your pulse.
  6. Cool down for 1 to 3 minutes: Finish your walk at an easy pace. You may want to end with a stretching routine.

30-Minute Walking Workout

Once you have become accustomed to taking a 20-minute brisk walk, begin to extend your time at the brisk pace. Begin by adding 5 more minutes at the brisk pace. Once you are used to that, take it up to 30 minutes of brisk walking.

At this level, you are achieving the minimum amount of moderate-intensity exercise recommended to reduce health risks. A 30-minute brisk walk, 5 or more days per week, is also recommended for people with diabetes and osteoarthritis.

A Word From Verywell

Finding the time to add a brisk walk to your day might be a challenge, but it will have benefits in reducing health risks. Whether you use a treadmill or walk outdoors, you will be getting the exercise recommended for a healthier and longer life.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ekelund U, Ward HA, Norat T, et al. Physical activity and all-cause mortality across levels of overall and abdominal adiposity in European men and women: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study (EPIC). Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(3):613-21. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.100065

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring physical activity intensity.

  3. Göçer E, Ardıç F, Akkaya N, Herek D. Efficacy of moderate-intensity walking provided feedback by ECE PEDO on abdominal fat in overweight and obese women: A randomized, exercise study. Turk J Phys Med Rehabil. 2017;63(4):340-347. doi:10.5606/tftrd.2017.1956

  4. Edwards MK, Loprinzi PD. Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults. Health Promot Perspect. 2018;8(3):171-178. doi:10.15171/hpp.2018.23

  5. Dempsey PC, Musicha C, Rowlands AV, et al. Investigation of a UK biobank cohort reveals causal associations of self-reported walking pace with telomere length. Commun Biol. 2022;5(1):1-7. doi:10.1038/s42003-022-03323-x

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.