This 4 week walking for beginners course is to help inactive people get into the habit of regular exercise. Each week, the walks get a bit more energetic, but that’s OK because each week you’ll be getting a bit fitter. Week 1 breaks you in gently with 10 minute walks at normal walking speed. The other 4 weeks have walking intervals at 2 different speeds.
Where and when to walk
Make sure you choose somewhere safe to walk – not somewhere isolated. A flat route is better to start with, leave hills for when you want to make your walks more challenging. Treadmill walking is fine and has some advantages, even though you miss out on being in the open air.
Any time of day is good, some people like to start the day with exercise, while others have more energy in the evening. Exercising too close to bed time might make it more difficult for you to get to sleep though. It’s best to leave an hour or more before bed time . If you work all day, walking at lunch time is a good way of fitting it in and getting a break from sitting. Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes though. High heels aren’t good to walk in because they put unnatural stresses on the feet bones and change the body’s centre of gravity.
As far as a route is concerned, you need to make sure it’s the right length for the time of the walk. The simplest way to do this is to walk for half the time then turn around and walk back.
Safety precautions: please read the general exercise guidelines here.
Walking for beginners – program schedules
The program is based on walking 5 days a week. After the first week, the walks will be in intervals of 2 walking speeds. This increases the cardio fitness and weight loss benefits of walking, while keeping the walks reasonably short.
The first week is very simple – all the walks are at normal walking pace
From week 2 onwards, the walks are at 2 speeds. You may have heard of interval training – it’s been a fitness craze for the last few years. In fact the idea was first used in the 1930s with professional athletes to improve their speed. The principal is simply that, by raising the effort level for a short time, you can get more improvement than staying at the same effort level for a longer time.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for people who are inactive/unfit/overweight to start pushing themselves to their maximum effort capacity. Working at maximum capacity is only advisable for participants who are already fit. Interval training doesn’t have to involve all-out effort, though. In this program, the walks use 2 levels of effort, level 1 being low intensity and level 2 moderate intensity.
This is normal walking pace, as in week 1.
Level 2 is slightly more effort. At this level, you’ll be more aware of your breathing and start to feel a little warmer. But you won’t feel out of breath and would still be able to hold a conversation. As you can see in the schedule below, this week there is a warm up and cool down at level 1, with an level 2 interval in the middle. So after you’ve done your warm up at level 1, just pick up the pace a bit until you start to feel warmer and breathe a bit heavier. After a couple of minutes at level 2, go back down to level 1 again. As we progress through the weeks, you’ll be doing longer intervals at level 2
This is the schedule for week 2. All 3 weekday walks are the same and then the weekend walks are a bit more challenging. This is the pattern we’ll follow for the rest of the course.
This week, you’ll be doing a bit more of your walk at level 2, to start improving your cardio fitness and burning a few more calories.
Like last week, we’re increasing both the level 1 and level 2 intervals slightly, so the walks are gradually getting a bit longer and a bit more effort.
You should be starting to feel the benefits of your regular walking. Improvements to your cardio fitness will be making you feel more energetic and you’ll find walking at the faster speed more comfortable. If you want to carry on progressing, you can download an 8 week version of this program, including a more detailed guide to walking for beginners.
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