How to Start a New Walking Program for Beginners

male walking briskly while listening to music

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

If you've decided it is time to start walking for health, fitness, and weight loss, you've already taken a great first step. Walking is an effective, natural way to achieve the daily physical activity amount recommended for weight management and good health.

Walking is a great way to achieve the physical activity guidelines recommended by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The recommendation is at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Generally, for a 160-pound person, walking for 30 minutes will burn about 125 calories. Best of all, it's budget-friendly—no expensive gym membership needed—and it can be done anywhere. Combined with a balanced diet, you can start achieving your goals.

If you're just getting started, take some time to familiarize yourself with the basics. Once you get going you can work your way up to walking comfortably for 30 minutes to an hour, the level of physical activity recommended to reduce risks of heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Is Walking Better Than Running?

It may feel like walking is too low-impact to have a meaningful effect on your weight, but that's not true. Especially if you're just starting out, running may be too much too fast, and too high impact.

Ultimately, it comes down to your situation and needs. Know that a walking program is an effective exercise and can lead to weight loss with proper calorie balance, so you shouldn't feel like you're not doing enough. In fact, it may be easier to stick to a walking plan instead of a running plan.

Before You Get Started

Walking for beginners
Verywell / Joshua Seong

There are a few things to consider when starting a walking program:

  1. Preparing to walk: Learn what you need to do before you begin a walking program. This may include getting medical advice, investing in basic walking gear like shoes and clothing, and more.
  2. Walking Technique: Next, you will learn good walking technique, focusing on proper posture, use of arms, and leg motion.
  3. Walking Schedule: Determine how often to walk, how fast, different types of walking, and how far to build up to the level of 30-60 minutes per day.
  4. Staying Motivated: Explore techniques for keeping yourself walking and avoiding common mistakes.

All of the advice included is good for walking either indoors or outdoors. To begin, we'll see if your body has any special needs before starting an exercise program. Then it's on to gear-up with clothing and shoes.

When to Get a Medical Check-Up Before Starting a Walking Program

Contact a healthcare provider for a check-up or consultation before you begin your walking program if any of these apply to you:

  • You have been sedentary for a year or more
  • You don't currently exercise and are over age 65
  • You have been diagnosed with heart trouble
  • You're pregnant
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have diabetes
  • You have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself.
  • You often feel faint or have severe dizzy spells
  • You have other medical conditions that may make it challenging to walk

Incorporating Variety

Once you're more advanced you may want to incorporate jogging or interval training to add some variety. Additionally, you might want to add a stretching and strength routine to your weekly workout regime.

Strength training can help build muscle, boost bone density, and imrpove balance. As you get more comfortable with your walking routine, consider adding a day of weightlifting to reap the benefits. Alternatively, try walking with weights, but make sure you do it right.

Setting Realistic Expectations

The important thing to remember is to be realistic. Don't be harsh on yourself if you can't go long distances right away — you'll work up to them. Especially if you're new to exercise, focus on starting slow and consistency. You'll notice your body getting stronger as time goes.

One helpful technique is setting SMART goals. These are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals that will help you structure your walking and give you something to work towards.

Also, modify as you go based on how you feel and what results you're seeing. If your plan isn't working, regroup and evaluate.

Once you have the go-ahead from your doctor (if needed), you should start exploring gear and technique. Start small. A few basics will be enough at first and then you can invest in more down the line.

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. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.

  2. Rippe JM, Ward A, Porcari JP, Freedson PS. Walking for health and fitnessJAMA. 1988;259(18):2720-2724.

  3. Hart PD, Buck DJ. The effect of resistance training on health-related quality of life in older adults: Systematic review and meta-analysisHealth Promot Perspect. 2019;9(1):1-12. doi:10.15171/hpp.2019.01

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.