Most people know that having specific exercise goals is key to building healthy habits. Aiming for 30 minutes of walking daily is a great goal for general health and fitness. Most walkers should be able to find time for a 30-minute walk, whether it’s before work in the morning or during a lunch break. But planning to simply walk 30 minutes with no structure or plan may not be the best way to reach your goals. Having a structured walking workout that gets your heart pumping in a set amount of time can be your key to success.
Following a detailed walking workout plan can maximize the benefits of your workout and keep things interesting. This, in turn, increases your motivation and the odds that you’ll stick with your workout habit. Read on for some tips on creating your ideal 30-minute walking workout.
For more walking workouts, as well as full-body strength workouts that you can do anywhere, check out Pacer’s workout plans!
Benefits of a Structured Walking Workout
With a structured walking workout, you’ll have a built-in warm up and cool down period. According to the National Heart Association, warming up gets blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles and lets your heart ramp up into more intense activity. This helps to reduce your risk of injury, as well as gets your body ready for more intense exercise. A cool-down period at the end of your workout lets your heart rate gradually return to normal, preventing you from feeling light-headed.
Planning intervals of varying intensity into your workout can maximize your health benefits, according to a Japanese study on different walking techniques.
Having a plan for your walking workout can also prevent boredom. You can look forward to the different phases of your half-hour walk rather than just watching the clock. It also helps maximize the time you have available.
A Sample 30-Minute Walking Workout
Walking experts recommend stretching without bouncing, holding each stretch for around 30 seconds, and breathing through each stretch. Experts recommend dynamic stretching, which involves getting your limbs and joints moving. Here are some stretching ideas! Doing static stretching (deep, intense stretching) while not properly warmed up can actually cause injuries!
5-minute slow warm-up:
Start walking much more slowly than your normal pace. If you feel stiff, swing your arms gently and raise your legs on each step to warm up your whole body. Your goal is to get your body moving and blood pumping before you start picking up the pace.
5 minutes moderate pace walking:
Increase your pace to one that’s comfortable but not your top walking speed.
5 minutes of brisk/fast walking:
Walk at a pace that is challenging to maintain, but not uncomfortable. You’re not looking to do a sprint, or risk injury. Try to keep a brisk pace that you can still maintain for 5 minutes.
5 minutes moderate pace walking (with hills if possible):
Return to a moderate pace, and add some inclines if you’re walking on a treadmill. If you’re outside and you want to add some intensity, try planning your route so you can get some incline walking during this segment.
5 minutes brisk/fast walking:
One more fast segment. You can do it! Make sure you’re maintaining good posture, as it’s easy to lose your proper walking posture when you start to get tired.
Slow down gradually from your fastest speed to a moderate pace, and finally to a slow cool-down pace. If you time it correctly, you can arrive back home or back to the office after this segment!
Follow the same stretching guidelines detailed above. Post-workout stretching can be even more beneficial than stretching before your walk, according to some research. If you do want to do some static stretching for flexibility, now is the time to do it. Any stretching you can get in is great though! If you have a bit more time, you can try Pacer’s 10-minute “Daily Stretch” workout in our workout section.
Keep it fresh and change it up!
Even with this variety of changes in pace and walking rhythm, a 30-minute walking workout can get monotonous after a while. Losing interest is a surefire way to fall off of your fitness path. Try spicing up your workout with these tips:
- Walk in different locations. Explore new parks, shopping malls, and street routes to keep things interesting. Get creative!
- Try different terrain. Pick one day a week to go on a walk with more hills, or walk on a trail rather than a flat road.
- Make new playlists. Music can be a fantastic motivator while walking. Create playlists that align with the intervals in your workout.
- Find a podcast: Find 30-minute podcasts that will hold your interest while you walk.
- Walk with friends. A group walk is a great way to socialize while getting your workout in, and you can help motivate each other to keep going.
Make It Work for You
You don’t have to start with a full 30-minute walking workout. If you’re new to walking or recovering from an injury, start with shorter walks and increase the length at a rate you’re comfortable with — you might add 5 minutes to your walk each week.
You should increase your workout intensity if:
- You don’t feel your heart rate increasing during your fast segments
- You don’t feel at all tired at the end of your 30-minute walking workout
You should decrease intensity if:
- You’re extremely tired or out of breath during your walk
- You feel uncomfortable with your heart rate during fast segments
- You have any kind of injury or strain
As with any exercise plan, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have any injuries, chronic conditions, or just have concerns about your workout. Make sure to fuel your walking workout with healthy food choices throughout the day, and stay hydrated, especially when walking outside in the heat. Wear supportive, well-fitting shoes and comfortable clothing.
Remember, walking (and Pacer) is always going to be there when you’re ready. If you start your 30-minute walking workout and realize that you don’t have it that day, go at whatever pace you feel you can maintain. Some steps are better than no steps, and a few steps are much better than pushing yourself too hard and feeling very sore or injured.
With a short walking workout each day, you can be on your way to weight loss, a healthier heart, and better overall fitness. No matter where you are in your fitness journey, walking offers a low-impact activity that doesn’t require fancy equipment or expensive gear to start enjoying. Make a plan for your 30-minute walking workout and get moving!