If you’ve decided you want to improve your fitness, walking is a good choice. It’s free, simple, and adaptable to your schedule. If you’ve been relatively sedentary, you might find that you can’t walk very far at first without getting sore or out-of-breath. You just have to keep at it! If you try to walk a little further every day, you’ll find that your walking stamina gradually improves. If you don’t have the patience for that, there are a few other tricks you can try to help you reach your goals faster.
Improving Cardiovascular Fitness
Walk for at least 30 minutes 3 to 5 days a week. Going for regular walks improves your cardiovascular fitness gradually, but don’t sweat it if you can’t walk this long initially. Over time, your body will get used to a certain level of activity, and that makes it easier for you to walk longer.
- If the outdoors aren’t available to you this often or if the weather is unsuitable, use a treadmill or stationary bike inside instead.
- Always warm up before you start exercising. Start with static stretches, where you only stretch one muscle at a time. Then, move into dynamic stretches, like high-knees and jumping jacks, which gradually get your heart rate up.
Go on a longer walk at least one day a week. Plan a longer walk for at least one of your sessions so you can gradually push your endurance. When you first start, the distance will likely be relatively short. However, as you progress, the distance will grow (as will the time commitment).
- For example, when you first start out, you may only be able to walk 2 miles (3.2 km) without getting tired. That would be your long walk. Each week, increase your long walk by 0.5 mi (0.80 km).
- Don’t worry about where you start — just focus on improving a little each week.
Walk at a brisk pace of about 3 miles (4.8 km) per hour. This pace is faster than a stroll, but likely not the fastest you can walk. If you download a step app for your smartphone or smartwatch, it will help you keep pace.
- Listening to music while you walk can help you keep the pace. There are some smartphone apps, such as PaceDJ and RockMyRun, that will help you plan your playlist to include songs with the correct number of beats per minute to keep you on pace.
Vary terrain and elevation to change the level of resistance. Walking on grass or sand is more difficult than walking on a paved walking trail. Including plenty of hills on your route helps build your stamina as well.
- When walking uphill, lean forward slightly to ease the weight on your leg muscles. Slow your pace as you head downhill and take shorter steps to avoid putting too much strain on your knees.
Carry weight while walking. If you only have a short period of time to walk, add resistance to work on your stamina. You can buy ankle and wrist weights at sporting goods or department stores (or online), but this type of equipment isn’t strictly necessary. You can also simply put a few books or solid objects in a backpack and carry that.
- Keep track of the amount of weight you’re carrying so you can increase it incrementally. For example, you might walk with 10 pounds for 1 week, then start carrying 15 pounds.
- After you’ve been walking with weight for a few weeks, try walking without the weight and see how much further you can go.
Including Activity in Daily Life
Find ways to include walking in your regular routine. Think of what you do throughout the day and figure out how you can introduce more walking into the mix. You’ll gradually build stamina by getting your body accustomed to moving constantly rather than being sedentary. Here are some possibilities you might try:
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park further away from shops and walk the distance through the parking lot.
- Walk or bike to work.
- Pace while you’re talking on the phone.
- Do stretches while watching TV.
Download a step-tracking or general fitness app. A fitness app, such as MyFitnessPal or Map My Fitness, allows you to set goals for yourself to stay active and increase your walking stamina over time. Some trackers also have features that allow you to compete with others who have the same app, which can provide you with additional motivation.
- Some smartphones come with built-in activity trackers that you can use for free. You can also buy activity trackers, such as FitBit, that allow you to record your workouts. These devices often also measure the distance you’ve walked and include information about your elevation, heart rate, and calories burned.
Do at least 10 minutes of physical activity at a time. If you’re trying to improve your stamina, shorter bursts of activity won’t have the same benefits (although they will help). Even if you’re just pacing around your home or jogging in place, keep up your activity for at least 10 minutes.
- For example, you might go on a 10-minute walk after each meal. That spreads your activity out over the course of the day and gets your body used to walking more (even if you’ve broken the longer walk up into pieces).
Try bodyweight exercises when you have downtime. Because bodyweight exercises don’t require any equipment, you can do them anywhere. Any downtime you have waiting for something or someone can be put to use to help you become more active, even if it’s simply doing a few jumping jacks or toe touches. Staying active during these times rather than just sitting down and waiting will help improve your cardiovascular stamina and endurance over time.
- For example, you might do squats or lunges in the kitchen while you’re waiting for water to boil.
- Space out your bodyweight exercises by at least 3 days. This way, your muscle fibers have enough time to rest and recover.
- Try building up your strength by adding a couple more reps to each round of bodyweight exercises.