Essential Guide to Walking and Steps

by MyFitnessPal
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Essential Guide to Walking and Steps

Walking is one of the most rewarding lifelong activities you can choose. While it may not be a huge calorie burner — the average person burns about 100 calories or so per mile — adding more mileage to your day can make a big difference in weight control. According to Harvard Health Watch, one study found the average person gains about 2.2 pounds a year during middle age. However, over 15 years of research, the study found that individuals who walked regularly gained significantly less weight than those who didn’t.

Walking also offers plenty of health benefits, including lowering the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes; reducing the risk of developing dementia and cancer and even reducing fibromyalgia pain. Plus, walking may be even more beneficial than running. Walkers have a much lower risk of exercise-related injuries than runners, whose legs absorb about 100 tons of impact force in just one mile. So, if you’re just starting your fitness journey, know that fitness walking is a seriously good place to begin.


Whatever makes you feel comfortable is the easy answer. There is no need for fancy spandex or workout clothes, unless that’s what you like. As you start moving farther and faster, you may want to get dedicated fitness walking clothes that wick away sweat or allow you to layer for different weather conditions, but for a beginning fitness walker, comfort trumps everything else.

The one must-have is a fitness shoe — no exceptions. A walking, running or (some) cross-trainers are the right choice for walking workouts that get big health and weight-loss results. Don’t skimp on shoes. You need the shock absorption to protect your joints and the support to walk stronger and longer.


What makes a fitness walk a fitness walk? It’s not the foot strike. It’s not the arm swing. It’s the “belly button-to-spine” action — sometimes called a “tummy tuck” — that will make your walk more effective, protect your back and get your abs in on the action.

As you walk, draw your belly button toward your spine. That deep layer of muscle is key to supporting your back. It stabilizes the middle of your body so your legs can move with much more power. It also engages your core, which in turn helps engage other muscle groups as you walk.


Once properly outfitted with shoes and a comfortable outfit, here’s the plan:

  1. Head outside.
  2. Look at the time and remember it.
  3. Walk at your normal pace for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn around to head back to where you started.
  5. Your body is now warm and ready for an increased challenge: Walk the 10 minutes back at a brisk pace.
  6. Go!

Think of a brisk pace as when you’re late for an appointment and hustling to get there. It should raise your heart rate into a moderate intensity exercise zone, or roughly 60% of your maximum. This rate demands more oxygen for working muscle, which makes it ideal for weight loss and calorie burn.


Aim for five, 30-minute exercise sessions each week. Increasing your daily step count is an excellent fitness goal. Even if you have been exercising routinely for years, it’s important to take regular walking breaks to combat the negative effects of hours of sitting. That’s why adding more steps to your day is beneficial for your waistline and your overall health.

A beginner should aim to walk 1 mile in about 18 minutes. You should be able to get to that goal quickly in just a few weeks of consistent walking. Then, extend to 2 miles of walking, no matter how long it takes, and finally get to 2 miles in 30 minutes. That is a strong walking pace that will reward you with good general fitness.

Start off with this 7-Day Walking Program. When you’re ready, amp up your walking with this 4-Week Walking Plan. For an extra challenge, try adding in High-Intensity Intervals.



Beyond fitness walking, or walking for a workout, the number of steps you take per day is a way to monitor your overall movement. You may only walk 2,000–5,000 steps on a fitness walk, but that doesn’t mean you should spend the rest of the day sitting.

Whether you’re working up to 10,000 steps a day or have loftier goals in mind, these 10 easy suggestions can help you gradually increase your daily step count:


There’s no need to try to squeeze in all of your steps in one shot. In fact, you may get more benefit if you spread them out throughout the day. If you often get stuck at your desk for hours on end during your workday, try setting a reminder for every hour, and spend 15 minutes walking. If you’re able to repeat this five times a day, you may reach your 10,000 step goal before you leave work!


Decide that every time you take a phone call, you’ll walk. Whether you are in your office or at home, pace around. If the weather is nice, take your mobile phone with you for an energizing outdoor call. Turning every phone conversation into a walking one can increase your daily step count almost effortlessly.


Download a podcast or audiobook to listen to while you walk — similar to making phone calls, listening to a good story can make you forget how long you’ve been walking.


You may not be the only one at work looking to increase their step count. Suggest turning one-on-one or small-group meetings into walking meetings. Movement and fresh air can get ideas flowing, and side-by-side conversations can reveal a fuller range of communication styles — which means more than your step count may benefit.


Whether it’s taking the kids to school or getting yourself to work or running errands, if you live close enough to walk there, walk there!


Sharing steps with someone else is a great way to stay accountable and stick to a goal of walking more — whether it’s a post-dinner stroll with your spouse and kids or a power walk with a friend in the morning. Plus, you get to spend quality time with those you love.


When there’s a commercial break during a program, get up and walk around the room until it’s over. You not only gain some steps, you lose some sitting time.


Picking up kids? Going to the dentist? Whenever you find yourself waiting, walk around the block or up and down the hall.


Park farther away from the entrance, take the stairs, return shopping carts to the store, skip the drive-through — putting just a little more effort into your routine also ups your daily step tally.


Cooking dinner, even in a small kitchen, adds a surprising number of steps. Cleaning, yard work and other chores add up, too. Take groceries in one bag at a time. Walk around the ironing board between shirts. There are lots of ways to keep moving and knock things off your to-do list.

Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.

About the Author


MyFitnessPal provides powerful tools that make it easier for anyone to live a healthier life by tracking their meals and physical activity. Make healthy choices and visit the MyFitnessPal blog and download MyFitnessPal (if you haven’t already).


18 responses to “Essential Guide to Walking and Steps”

  1. Avatar Beth Holen says:

    Most people would be in danger of losing their job if they took a 15 minute break every hour.

    • Avatar Angela James says:

      That is so very true

    • Avatar Craig McWhirter says:

      That is very true. Our employer has invested in vari-height desks for those who requested so that people can alter their working position throughout the day. They also gave everyone a free step tracking device – a garmin vivofit – and have set up walking challenge teams with £50 amazon vouchers every 3 months to the winning teams. The teams get mixed after every event to keep it competitive! Not all employers are in the dark ages and understand the benefits to them of a fit and healthy workforce.

      • Avatar Gina Stinson says:

        Kudos to an employer who understands that it is more beneficial to have a healthy happy team than a sick team that calls in to work because of ill health.

  2. Avatar Janet Smalley says:

    I am intreged by the word “wick” – you may want to get dedicated fitness walking clothes that wick away sweat – what are these clothes made of? I have looked up the word “wick” in the dictionary and they say material like a candle wick, nothing about material suitable for clothing or a reduction of sweat?

  3. Avatar Dannielle Towey says:

    I fold laundry downstairs then take the clothes upstairs in piles not in a basket.

    • Avatar Kathy Schoonmaker says:

      That’s a great idea. It also means you will put them away instead of leaving the full basket there. Will definitely try this. Thanks.

  4. Avatar Bill Roberts says:

    On 16 Sep 17, in the AM, I had walked my 4 miles in slightly less than one hour. I weighed 215, down from my 275 this time last year. You read right: I’d lost 60 pounds over that time. My 1st walk back then was 3 miles in that same hour. You read that right also. I “shattered” my right tibia in a fall later in the day of 16 Sep 17. Four months into my healing I began treadmill walking. I’m still very swollen by mid-afternoon, two plates and 30-some screws in my lower leg. TODAY marks my 1st day of heading back outside on my familiar route in my neighborhood. My recovery being sedentary saw me gain 15 lbs of the 60 I’d lost. Yes, weighing 45 lbs less today than this time last year is not to be poo-pooed. Being set back 15lbs still stings but I’ve stopped bitching about things and have re-committed to my fitness/weight loss routines/discipline. My ultimate goal is to weight 200 at 5 lbs/month. MyFitnessPal & MapMyWalk saved my life, and I’ll continue to use them both to get back to normal over time.

  5. Avatar Sophia Martin says:

    I’ve been using fitness pal for 4 years off and on..2014, My starting weight was 260lbs.. It was a very rough start for me to get into shape and stay committed.. But when your with family and friends and pictures are taken and you actually see yourself for the first time, it becomes depressing and disgusted with yourself in how did I let myself go like this.. The sad thing about it was my family and friends never said anything to me about it.. “I’m concerned about your health”(well I lied my mom did occasionally), but it wasn’t really out of a positive way to say to someone, the way she has said it.. But anyway to make a long story short.. I got on the ball at the beginning of 2015, I started walking 2 miles a day, within that 1 month I had lost 20 lbs. Then by the end of 2015 I had went down to 215 lbs.. But ended up gaining majority of it right back, because of lack of willpower back up to 245 lbs. I felt pathetic and depressed, I finally gave up.. I went window shopping in the beginning of 2016(something I hate doing),but mom insisted, and I’m so glad that day she did.. I saw so many outfits, shoes, that I wanted but couldn’t wear.. So that day I said enough is enough this weight is coming off. It’s 2018 is here now Feb, And I can proudly say I’m at 174 lbs. I have another 30lbs to go to get to my weight lost goal. And thanks to God, fitness pal, walking, willpower, and determination. I’ve never look back, and when I look at the old pictures, I say who is that girl.. Lol.. If I can do it, so can anybody else.. Like the saying goes, never give up, try and try again until you succeed.. Thanks fitness pal for letting me write my little journey and sharing.

  6. Avatar robertdangoor says:

    I find walking can be just as beneficial as more vigorous activities, less prone to injuries and more time to be able to do it.

  7. Avatar Jim Wilson says:

    I walk everyday. 10000 steps most days. The above story says 2 miles in 30 mins. Thats a speed of 4 mph.
    I walk a treadmill and I have observed others. Most people walk between 2.5 and 3.7 mph. Not 4mph. Most weeks I walk a 5k walk also. I think my best was like 50-55 mins for 3.1 miles or 5 k. I was moving out. I am 55 years old but really have been walking last 3-4 years. Walk on! It really helps.

    • Avatar Sophia Martin says:

      Thanks.. And yes 2 to 3 miles can be done within 30 mins to an hour.. It’s depends on your energy level that day, and some get more energize with fast pace music to get them going.. I know it works for me.. Keep up the good work on maintaining your walks.

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