Maximize Your 15-Minute Walk

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What can you do in 15 minutes? You can get a good start on the physical activity you need each day for good health and fitness—and you can burn up to 100 calories.

Why Should You Walk for 15 Minutes?

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking to maintain fitness. They say you can do this in sessions of at least 10 minutes. A 15-minute walk will give you the right amount of time to warm up to a brisk walking pace. By enjoying two or more 15-minute walks during the workday or school day, you can achieve this goal.

A 15-minute walk burns calories. The number of calories you burn depends on how far you walk in 15 minutes and how much you weigh. Use the walking calorie chart to find your number.

Taking walking breaks throughout the day helps battle inactivity and the health hazards of sitting too long. Research is increasingly showing this to be its own health risk.

Wear Walking Shoes

To get the most from your 15-minute walk, change into athletic shoes. You could still benefit from a 15-minute walk wearing your dress shoes or heels, but you will best be able to achieve a brisk walking pace with athletic shoes.

Warm-Up Minute

Start each workout by walking at an easy pace for one to three minutes. If you've been sitting for a while, this gives you a chance to unwind your muscles and get ready for a faster pace.

  • Check your walking posture. You will get the most benefits from walking if you have a good upright posture, sucking in your gut, and tucking in your butt.
  • Relax your shoulders, especially if you have been hunched over a computer or desk work. Do a shoulder roll and a shrug to ensure you are loosening them up.
  • Your eyes need to be looking forward, not down at the ground or your cell phone. This will reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders and allow you to take full, deep breaths.
  • You may want to do stretches before or after your walk. If you don't have time for a stretching routine, many experts say it can be its own activity separate from your walking workouts.

Steady State Brisk Walk

After your warm-up minute, pick up the pace to walk at a brisk pace. This is a pace where you are breathing heavier than normal but still able to carry on a conversation.

You want to achieve a heart rate of 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. To see if you are in this range, use the heart rate zone chart to find out what the numbers should be based on your age. Then take your pulse after 10 minutes of walking to see if you are achieving that level.

Save the last minute of your walk to slow down to an easy pace.

Speed Intervals

You can add a speed interval to your walk to get your heart rate up to a higher level and blow out the mental cobwebs. After your warm-up minute, take your walking up to a steady brisk pace for five minutes. Then take your pace up to walking as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Slow back down to a brisk pace for two minutes. Repeat walking as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Slow to the brisk pace for five minutes. Finish with an easy pace for one minute.

Stair Intervals

You can also add intensity to your walk by including stairs or a steep hill. Plan your route so you can have a warm-up of walking at an easy pace for at least one minute and taking your walking up to a brisk pace for a couple of minutes before you include the stairs or hill. Add two or more flights of stairs at a time for a 30-second to a 1-minute burst of intensity to your workout.

Arrange your walk so you can include flights of stairs alternating with brisk walking for three minutes.

If you don't have any stairs, you could use stepping up and down from a tall curb for 30 seconds at a time.

Stairs work the hip extensors, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings more intensely than level walking.

Work on Your Walking Form

If you have trouble getting your heart rate up into the moderate-intensity zone, use the tips for how to walk faster. Using proper arm motion can make a huge difference in your walking speed.

Add Equipment

If you want a better short workout, fitness walking poles are a great way to get an upper-body work safely. Learn to use the nordic walking technique or exerstriding technique to add intensity to your walk.​

Walking with hand weights or ankle weights is not recommended. Save the hand weights to use after your walk and do a short and effective upper body routine with dumbbells or resistance bands.

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. Daneshmandi H, Choobineh A, Ghaem H, Karimi M. Adverse effects of prolonged sitting behavior on the general health of office workersJ Lifestyle Med. 2017;7(2):69-75. doi:10.15280/jlm.2017.7.2.69

  3. Shim JM, Kwon HY, Kim HR, Kim BI, Jung JH. Comparison of the effects of walking with and without nordic pole on upper extremity and lower extremity muscle activationJ Phys Ther Sci. 2013;25(12):1553-1556. doi:10.1589/jpts.25.1553

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.