Can You Walk Too Much? How to Tell

Reaping the Benefits of Walking Without Risking Your Health

Woman walking outside

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

If you've just discovered the joys of walking, you may be throwing yourself into it wholeheartedly. And, generally speaking, that's a good thing. But there comes a point where walking too much may be harmful if you've not been properly conditioned.

While people tend to think of walking as a recreational activity rather than a sport, the aims are the same as with any other form of exercise: to improve your strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health. Overexerting yourself to get fitter faster only increases your risk of injury and burnout.

In order to reap the benefits of walking, you need to design a program that allows you to increase the volume and intensity of your workout gradually. How much walking is too much? That will vary from person to person, but there are guidelines you can use to set up a smart program for you.

How Much Walking Is 'Too Much'?

When embarking on an exercise program, especially if you have never trained before, it's important to start slowly and gradually build up your time and intensity.

A good strategy for beginners is to start with no more than 15 minutes of walking at a relatively easy pace (you'll know you're at the right pace when you can speak in full sentences without breathing heavily). Then, add a few minutes each week, building up to 30 minutes of walking at a brisk pace. (you should be able to speak in full sentences, but be breathing through the mouth rather than the nose).

To attain the full benefits of walking, aim to walk at least three days a week. In addition to walking, you should engage in other forms of exercise, including strength training, flexibility exercises, and balance exercises

Negative Effects of Walking Too Much

Overtraining can lead to a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, but if you notice any of the following, you may be overtraining:

  • Decreased performance
  • Depression
  • Elevated resting heart rate (RHR)
  • Increased irritability
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nagging, chronic injuries
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Persistent heavy, stiff, and sore muscles
  • Recurrent infections, colds, and headaches

What Happens When You Overtrain?

A well-structured training program is designed in part to reduce the risk of overtraining. Overtraining occurs when the amount of exercise you engage in exceeds your body's ability to recover. This can lead to overtraining syndrome (OTS), which is marked by fatigue and a decrease in your ability to perform.

Overtraining affects your ability to exercise. People who overtrain fatigue quickly. Even at a slower pace, you may find yourself breathing heavily and unable to speak in full sentences. It is at this stage that you should stop and speak with a healthcare provider to help guide your recovery.

Mistakes to Avoid

A common mistake when starting a walking program is doing too much too soon. The enthusiasm of having a new exercise regimen can make it difficult to take it slow, but you'd be well-served to take your time and learn how to walk properly for the first couple of weeks.

And despite what some may tell you, there is a correct way to walk. The proper walking technique involves the correct posture, stride length, foot placement, and footwear. Getting this right can help alleviate stress on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.

Other common mistakes include walking with too much intensity, walking too far, and walking too fast.

Walking With Too Much Intensity

Try to keep your walks in the moderate-intensity zone, or around 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). If you don't have a heart rate monitor, use the talk test. You should be able to talk, but only about a sentence before taking a breath.

How to Calculate Maximum Heart Rate

To estimate your maximum heart rate (MHR), subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 60, your maximum heart rate should be at or below 160 (220 - 60 = 160).

Walking Too Far

Even if you feel great when you first start walking, remember that unless you've planned a circular route, you'll eventually have to turn around and come home. Start with 15-minute walks, and when you can do so comfortably, increase the time in 5-minute increments.

Walking Too Fast

Until you increase your conditioning, avoid walking so fast that you are unable to speak in full sentences. If you start off too fast, you might not be able to recover properly, and you may risk burnout.

Walking Training Tips

One of the great things about walking is that there is always something new to learn. Here are a few tips to set you off on the right foot:

  • Alternate easy and hard days. Any hard workout day should be followed by either an easy day or a rest day. You can focus on stretching and flexibility or take an easy stroll with friends. Breaking things up gives your body a chance to recover.
  • Always warm up. You should warm up with 5–10 minutes of easy walking before breaking into a faster stride. After warming up, you can do stretches for your calves, hamstrings, groin, and ankles if you prefer. Also take the time to cool down, especially if you've had a long walk. Stretching after your workout is important.
  • Increase in small increments. Increase only one element at a time. For example, if you're trying to walk longer distances, don't try to also walk faster. Gradually adjust one variable of your walking at a time and then focus on another to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Increase your daily steps incrementally. A great way to track your steps is to download a fitness app like Google Fit or purchase a pedometer. Week-on-week, increase your steps by around 10%. (For example, if you walk 5,000 steps per day this week, aim for 5,500 steps per day next week.)
  • Stay consistent. By maintaining a regular walking schedule, you will eventually turn walking into a habit and feel strange if you miss a workout. Consistency is the key to success.

Most importantly, listen to your body. If you experience pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, a cold sweat, or sudden changes in heart rate, do not push through. Stop and contact a healthcare professional.

A Word From Verywell

Walking is such a wonderful way to start a new fitness habit, and it is also a great addition to existing strength training routines. And while it seems so fundamental, walking the proper way and as part of a thoughtful routine can help increase conditioning and help you meet fitness goals. Of course, any time you start a new exercise regimen, you should speak with a healthcare professional to make sure it will be safe and effective for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is walking too much bad for you?

    It can be! If your walking routine is too strenuous, you may experience discomfort and it could lead to injuries. Factors that make a walking routine too strenuous could include walking too far, walking with too much intensity, or not taking enough rest days to recover.

  • What are the symptoms of walking too much?

    Pain and swelling are symptoms that a recent walk was either too long or too intense. If you continue walking too much, or with too much intensity, you may notice a decrease in your performance; heavy, stiff muscles; and/or psychological symptoms like depression and irritability.

  • How many miles of walking is "too much"?

    How many miles of walking is "too much" for you depends on your fitness level and how well conditioned you are. There is no set number of miles that is considered too much (or too little) for all walkers. However, it is wise to start with shorter walks and gradually increase mileage as fitness goals are met.

3 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. Roy BA. Overreaching/overtraining: More is not always better. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2015;19(2):4. doi:10.1249/FIT.0000000000000100

  2. Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Novel insights of overtraining syndrome discovered from the EROS study. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019;5(1):e000542. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000542

  3. Chambers AJ, Haney JM, Huppert T, Redfern MS. The effect of prolonged walking with intermittent standing on erector spinae and soleus muscle oxygenation and discomfort. J Sports Sci Med. 2019;18(2):337-343. PMID:31191104

Additional Reading

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.