How Much Walking Is Too Much?

Walkers Enjoying Nordic Walking in Meadow
Walkers Enjoying Nordic Walking in Meadow. altrendo/Getty Images

If you've just discovered the joy of walking, you may be throwing yourself into it wholeheartedly. But then you may begin to wonder whether there can be too much of a good thing. Health authorities set no warning limit on the amount of walking you do, as long as you build up your walking time and distance steadily and consistently. See how to structure your walking workouts so you are building your fitness and health rather than tearing yourself down.

Build Your Walking Time Gradually

When you start an exercise program, especially if you have been inactive, it's important to start slowly and gradually build up your time and intensity. A good beginner's walking plan is to start with 15 minutes at an easy pace. Adding a few minutes per session each week, build up to brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week—the recommended minimum level of exercise to reduce health risks.

For those over age 65, there is no slacking off—health authorities recommend the same amount of brisk walking for you. Plus, they recommend adding strength trainingflexibility exercises, and balance exercises.

Can You Walk Too Much?

A common mistake when starting a walking program is beginning by walking too fast or for too long in a session. It's smart to start any training program by slowing down and working on your walking technique for the first couple of weeks. Getting your posture and stride right at an easy pace is critical to being able to walk faster and longer.

  • Walking too fast: Slow down and work on your walking technique. Practice the correct posture and stride.
  • Walking too far: Once you are walking comfortably for 30 minutes at a time, you can begin to increase the distance of each workout. But no matter how long you usually walk, it is best to increase your longest walking time by only 15 minutes each week (which is a kilometer to a mile of distance for most people).
  • Increase daily steps incrementally: If you are going only by a pedometer step count, each week you might increase your daily step total by about 10 percent. If you walk 5000 steps, aim first for 5500 per day.
  • Alternate easy and hard days: If you are using a walking workout schedule, any day with a hard workout is followed by an easy day or a rest day. Work on stretching and flexibility, or just take an easy walk. 
  • Take a rest day: Listen to your body and take a rest day if you are experiencing fatigue and muscle aches. Get in enough walking to loosen up, but save the longer workouts for the next day.
  • Maybe walking isn't for you: The key to lifelong fitness is finding the activity you enjoy and will want to do for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. If your feet, knees, and hips are telling you that walking isn't it, then explore swimming or bicycling as good aerobic alternatives.
  • Too much of a good thing? Overtraining is a risk for people who have the sort of personality that drives them to always be doing more, more, more. Often, they don't know when to quit and can end up with overuse injuries, dehydration, and other problems. If you are prone to overtraining, then you need to schedule your easy days, hard days, and rest day. Stick with a schedule and don't give in to the temptation to do too much, too soon, too often.

Signs You Are Walking Too Much

If you are overtraining, the American Council on Exercise lists signs that include excessive fatigue, feeling like you are putting out more effort even with light exercise, chronic muscle or joint aches, and decreased performance. A measurable sign of overtraining is an elevated resting heart rate and one that takes longer than usual to return to normal after exertion. These are signs that you should look at how much you have been exercising and consider taking a rest day and cutting back the duration or intensity of your exercise sessions.

A Word From Verywell

You won't overdose on walking if you steadily build your walking time or daily steps. Pay attention to the signs of overtraining and you'll be able to keep going for years to come.

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