Maximize Your Lunchtime Walk

30-Minute Walking Workouts

Coworkers walking outside
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Make the most of your lunch break by taking a walk. In just 30 minutes of walking, you can cover from 1.5 to 2 miles (or 2 to 4 kilometers). You can burn as many as 200 calories, depending on how far and fast you walk and your weight. You can boost your mood for the rest of the day, and still have time for a nutritious meal.

Health authorities including the CDC recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking. If you enjoy a brisk walk during your lunch break most days of the week, you will have achieved the minimum requirement to help combat the health risks of inactivity and obesity. You should aim for at least 10 consecutive minutes of walking at a brisk pace to count towards your weekly total.

A 2015 study found many mental health benefits for a 30-minute walking lunch. Workers had increased enthusiasm, felt more relaxed, and were less nervous after walking at lunchtime. They also improved their physical fitness and other measures of health.

Plan for Your Walking Lunch

Set yourself up for success before you start walking with just a few preparations.

Find a Route

You can use a treadmill, walk indoors (in your workplace or a nearby gym or shopping mall), or walk outdoors. Outside, select a route that has fewer street crossings and stops for traffic. If you know how much distance you can walk in 30 minutes, you can map out a circular route. If not, you may want a shorter route that you can repeat multiple times.

Bring Athletic Shoes

You could walk in whatever footwear you happen to wear to work or school. But to get a good brisk walking stride, it's best to change into athletic walking shoes or running shoes. Depending on the weather, you may feel more comfortable changing into shorts and a T-shirt, or you may need a jacket and hat.

Pack a Lunch

Most people prefer to exercise first and have their meal after they finish. If you are very hungry by lunchtime, quiet your hunger by drinking a glass of water, or having a light snack such as a hard-boiled egg or a piece of fruit. A healthy lunch after your walk will nourish your muscles so they can recover and grow stronger.

Invite Others to Join You

Solo walking is great, but you may be more consistent in walking if you have a lunchtime walking buddy. You won't find as many excuses to skip your walk if your friend is ready to get going.

Sample Lunchtime Walking Workout

Start with a warm-up: an easy walking pace for one to three minutes. Use this time to shake out the kinks if you have been sitting or standing all morning.

Set yourself up for good walking posture. Energize your walking by relaxing and loosening your shoulders and standing upright, with stomach sucked in and pelvis tilted slightly forward. You want your chin up and eyes forward.

You can go through a short stretching routine after a couple of minutes of walking. But you can also save the stretching to do after your walk or as its own exercise activity at another time.

Steady State Brisk Walk

Now, walk at a brisk pace for 10 to 25 minutes, leaving time for a one- to three-minute cool-down at an easy pace.

Aim for a heart rate of 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Use a heart rate chart to find your numbers and take your pulse after 10 minutes of walking to check it. If you wear an activity monitor that has heart rate detection, it may give you these numbers automatically. Learn to know what this range feels like—you will be breathing heavier than normal, but still able to talk.

If you find you aren't getting your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone, you will need to pick up the pace. An easy tip to walk faster is to add arm motion.

Some days you will want to take it easier. You can spend the full 30 minutes walking at an easy pace. Concentrate on good posture and taking full, complete breaths.

Add Intervals for Intensity

Adding bouts of speedwalking or stair climbing can boost the calorie burn of your walking workout. These are easiest to do on a treadmill, a track, or a route you have previously mapped out. After your warm-up at an easy pace, walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then slow to a brisk pace for two minutes. Repeat three to four times, leaving time for a cool down. If you prefer to use stairs for intensity, use a set of stairs you can complete in 30 seconds (about two to three flights).

Change up your walk from day to day to prevent boredom and to keep challenging your body in different ways. Alternate steady state days with interval days. If you always use a treadmill, mix it up with walking the corridors of your workplace or walking outside.

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