Ask the Personal Trainer: Beginning Walking

What's the best way to start a walking regimen?
Bill SukulaAsk Personal Trainer
Q: I am a woman who weighs more than 200 pounds. I would like to start walking, but I'm not sure how long I should walk and how often. Do you have any ideas or a workout schedule for beginning walkers?

A: Thank you so much for your question. I think there are a lot of people out there who could benefit from a bit of advice on getting started. First things first: safety. If you've been physically inactive for quite some time, then you need to be careful not to overdo it. Remember to consult with your physician before starting a new exercise regime to ensure that it is right for you. Many people get excited with the prospect of exercise and its results, but they wind up doing too much, too hard, too soon and then burn out. Develop your fitness foundation slowly, be consistent, and the results will follow.

Start off with three days per week, walking on a level surface at a comfortable (low to moderate) pace that allows you to carry on a conversation with the person next to you (preferably a walking buddy). This is called the "talk test." If you find yourself huffing and puffing and unable to carry on the conversation without long, winded pauses, then you should slow down until you can talk comfortably.

As for duration, in the very beginning, I suggest 15-20 minute walking outings. If this is too much, try doing a modified interval version. For example, you might do five-minute exercise bursts four or five times spread out during the course of the day. As you develop your foundation, try increasing your duration and decreasing the number of times per day that you do it. And there is nothing wrong with eventually exercising daily at a moderate pace for up to 60 minutes.

Good luck with your walking, and remember that long, slow and steady wins the day!

In this Q&A series, William Sukala, MS, CSCS, answers questions about fitness and exercise. Read more articles from our personal trainer.

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