Take a 20-minute brisk walking workout to burn calories and slash your health risks. One 20-minute brisk walk per day will boost you from the deadly "inactive" category. A 20-minute brisk walk will cover at least one mile. It will burn 70 to 100 calories, depending on your weight. You will add 2000 to 3000 steps to your daily step count. A large study showed that you could reduce your risk of early death by as much as 30% with a brisk 20-minute walk each day.1 See how to do this workout and then extend it to a 30-minute brisk walk as is recommended for daily exercise.
To count as brisk walking, the CDC says it should be at a 20 minutes per mile pace (3mph) or more.2 More precisely, your heart rate should be in the moderate intensity zone, defined by the CDC as being from 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. Find out what pulse rate matches this zone for your age with the target heart rate charts. Take your pulse after a few minutes of brisk walking to see whether you are in a moderate intensity zone for your age. Your breathing should be heavier than usual, but you should still be able to speak in full sentences.
20-Minute Brisk Walking Workout
Your goal is to walk for 20 continuous minutes at a brisk pace of 15 to 20 minutes per mile (3 to 4mph) with your heart rate at 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate. You can use this workout on a treadmill or outdoors.
- Prepare to walk: If you have been sitting for a while, loosen up for a minute before you go for a walk. Stand up start at the top with a few shrugs and shoulder circles to loosen your neck and shoulders. If you prefer a full stretching routine, use the walking warm-up stretches.
- Focus on the right posture: Posture is the key to brisk walking. Posture won't just let you speed up to a brisk pace, but the right posture enables deep breathing. Stand up straight, suck in your gut, tuck in your butt, put your eyes forward, and keep your chin parallel to the ground.
- Start at an easy pace for 1 to 3 minutes: Warming up at an easy pace allows you to adjust your walking posture and get the blood flowing to your leg muscles. You may want to extend this easy pace if you still feel muscle or joint stiffness.
- Speed up to a brisk pace for 20 minutes: As you speed up, use arm motion to set your walking pace. Your feet will move as fast as your arms move.
- Take your pulse: Check after 2 minutes to see if you are in the moderate intensity zone. If you are not yet in the zone, speed up your arm motion to pick up the pace. Check again every 5 minutes. Pay attention to how hard you are breathing when you are in the moderate-intensity zone so you can gauge it without taking your pulse.
- Cool down for 1 to 3 minutes: Finish your walk at an easy pace. You may want to end with a stretching routine.
Best Times to Walk
Find the best time to make walking part of your daily schedule.
- Morning: Try a brisk walk before work or while walking the dog.
- Lunchtime: A brisk walk is perfect for breaking up long bouts of sitting at work or school.
- Evening: Walk off the stress of the day after work or dinner.
Enjoy two 15-minute brisk walks, 5 days per week and you will achieve the minimum recommended level of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for good health.3
30-Minute Brisk Walking Workout
Once you have become accustomed to taking a 20-minute brisk walk, begin to extend your time at the brisk pace. Begin by adding 5 more minutes at the brisk pace. Once you are used to that, take it up to 30 minutes of brisk walking.
At this level, you are achieving the minimum amount of moderate-intensity exercise recommended to reduce health risks. A 30-minute brisk walk, 5 or more days per week, is also recommended for people with diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Getting Into the Brisk Walking Zone
There are many possible reasons you might have trouble getting into the brisk walking zone. You may be:
- Not walking fast enough: Use the tips for how to walk faster to pick up your pace.
- Too fit: A walking pace may not be enough to reach the moderate intensity zone. You may need to add incline to a treadmill workout or use a route with hills and stairs for an outdoor workout. If that still doesn't work, it might be time to switch to running.
- Unable to walk fast or jog: Using fitness walking poles or Nordic walking can raise your heart rate at a slower pace.
- Wearing the wrong shoes: Stiff shoes, flimsy sneakers don't allow your feet to move correctly for a powerful walking stride. Get fitted for flat and flexible athletic shoes at the best running shoe store in your area.
- Wearing the wrong clothing: Walking clothing needs to give you freedom of movement and wick away sweat. Jeans or dress clothing are often too restrictive and don't allow your legs to move faster.