Are you walking too many miles? Key physical & mental signs.

It is possible to walk too many steps or miles in a day, which can lead to physical and mental symptoms of overtraining and burnout. How many steps or miles per day is too much depends on each individual walker, but your body will tell you you’re walking too much with some common signs. If you’re trying to build up to a new step goal, or trying something ambitious like walking an extra hour a day, you should expect to run into these symptoms at one point or another.

Read on to find out how to know if you’re walking too much, how your body will likely react, and what you can do for a much-needed break or change so that ultimately you can become a better and faster walker for years to come.

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How much walking is too much?

Woman going for a fitness walk in the countryside
Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock

There’s no one number or formula that will tell you how much walking is too much. While some people get more than 10,000 steps per day as part of their daily job, others need to put in effort to get half that. There are some number of steps walked or time active that’s too much for each of us, however. Even marathon runners cannot run a marathon every day without serious stress and impact on their body.

Walking is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, heart health and more. The key to sticking to walking long term is to pace yourself, not overdo it, and work on your endurance for the long haul.

How to Know if You Are Walking Too Much?

Women taking a long Nordic walk in the snow
Slawomir Kruz / Shutterstock

Most people assume that because walking is a low-impact activity, they can walk for as long a distance as they want to without issue. It is possible to overdo walking, just like any form of exercise! The key to knowing when your walking routine is becoming too much is listening to your body. As you exercise, it is essential to take a scan of what’s going on from your head to your toes and not ignore any muscle pains or injuries, especially if they are consistent. To understand how much walking is too much, follow the below suggestions to see if you are overdoing it with your walking routine.

  • Joint Pain/Soreness/Foot pain: If you notice new, persistent soreness that doesn’t seem to be coming from any injury that you remember, you could be overtraining. Since your feet bear the brunt of your weight, you’ll often get sore feet as well if your feet do not have enough chance to rest. While it’s never good to have soreness while walking, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re overtrained. However, if the pain persists and lasts for several days, then it may mean you have been overtraining. If you’re not sure, taking rest days is always a good idea.
  • Recovery Time: If you notice that you’re taking longer and longer to feel normal again after a walk, you may be overtraining. Everyone reacts differently to walking, but if you’re taking more than 15 minutes to recover from a walk, you may want to dial down the intensity for a bit. Try walking for shorter periods or taking a few days off and see if the recovery time improves.
  • Bad Posture: Good posture is key to getting your steps and avoiding injury. If you’re not getting enough rest, it will be harder for you to maintain good posture. If you find yourself staggering with your shoulders slumped and your arms swinging in front of you, it may mean that your body needs a break. Poor posture is one of the first signs that indicate your body is fatigued and needs some rest to recover. Losing good posture is also a good sign of when to cut any particular walk short. It’s better to walk less, but maintain good posture than try to force steps with bad posture and risk injury.

Stay consistent

Another way to know if you’re walking too much is to compare your steps with your past walking history. Pacer is a great way to do that, but you can do it other ways as well. While you might be fine having one day well above your normal average steps, doing this for a long period of time can lead to overuse or chronic injuries, like IT band pain or lower back issues.

While most people track their steps to try to walk more, if you have joint or other health issues you can track your steps to ensure you’re not walking too much!

What Happens When You Walk Too Much

Man tired from fitness walking too much
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

Overtraining is the term for exercising beyond your body’s ability to recover. Walking and other exercises put wear and tear and your joints. Exercise also creates small tears in your muscles, that your body heals through rest and recovery. When you’re in an overtrained state, your body is unable to keep up with the wear you’re putting on it.

Overtraining leads to:

  • Decreased performance (and steps): Athletes who are overtrained may see their speed or strength actually drop. As a walker, you may find it harder and harder to hit your steps without knowing why.
  • Pain & soreness: Because your body can’t recover properly, you’re likely to experience pain and soreness in both joints and muscles. Old injuries, like a sore knee, are likely to flare up.
  • Increased risk of injury: Soreness from overtraining can lead to bad form and posture while walking, which can then lead to an increased risk of injury. Sore or injured joints are also at more risk for a sudden, severe injury than they would be with proper rest.
  • Feeling tired & irritable: Overtraining damage to your body can throw your hormones out of whack, which can lead to difficulty sleeping, tiredness and irritability. This is the opposite of normal walking, which usually makes you feel happier. 

Mentally Exhausted From Walking?

Tired male walker taking a break
novak.elcic / Shutterstock

Walking can do wonders for your mental health. However, when those happy walking endorphins start dissipating or are replaced with a sense of anxiety or dread, this may mean it is time to make some changes to your walking routine. There’s also a mental component to overtraining that is often overlooked.

Mental signs of overtraining include:

  • General tiredness and irritation.
  • Lack of energy when walking.
  • Feeling unmotivated or not walking to walk at all.
  • Feeling burned out about your walking routine.

Often, the reason people burn out and give up on fitness walking is that they’re trying to do too much, too fast. What’s great about fitness walking is you don’t need to go long distances to reap all the health benefits of walking. What’s important is remaining consistent with your daily walking regime. As soon as you catch yourself start resenting your step count or worrying you won’t get in your miles for the week, don’t be afraid to take a step back and change up your goals and lower your daily walking distance. While you’re dealing with the physical aspects of overtraining by resting more, deal with the mental aspects using these tips:

  • Stop Counting Steps: Instead of going for a walk to get your steps in, switch it up. Try focusing on an activity that you enjoy, such as grabbing a friend to go shopping or golfing. Not only will it give you the motivation to incorporate physical exercise into your day, but it may surprise you how much walking you get in without even realizing it.
  • Park Farther Away: Tricking yourself into getting in those steps throughout the day is a great way to get in the physical activity without even thinking about it. If you need a few days off from fitness walking, get creative to get your steps without trying by parking farther away.
  • Mix things up: Do something different than you usually do with your walks. Try doing a short stair workout instead of your daily walk, or walk inside if you’re an outdoor walker (or walk outside if you usually walk inside).

You’re Overtraining – Now What?

Sporty woman taking a break eating an apple
Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock

The issue with overtraining is not necessarily that it happens, its that people don’t listen to their bodies and try to power through the pain. Most individuals fear that by taking a few days off, they will negate all their hard work and results. Yet, the opposite, in fact, is true. If these individuals don’t take a break when they need it, they put themself at risk for injury or even a mental burnout. However, if you act early and make some simple changes to your routine, you don’t have to stop exercising. So don’t work through the pain, add these simple swaps into your practice to get the rest your body needs and all the health benefits that exercise provides.

  • Walk a Little Less: If you are physically hurt or mentally worn out from walking, try scaling back the amount of walking you are doing. Go for a 10-15 minute walk and see how you are feeling. If you are still in pain or just feeling run down, then take a few days off and see how you are feeling after a break.
  • Time for a Massage: If you find yourself in pain after walking, a good foot massager or a full body massage may be just the trick to work out your sore muscles and help stimulate your blood circulation in your legs and feet. Massage or other techniques will not only help reduce the pain but speed up your recovery time.
  • Watch your Body: If you notice that you are closing your stride as you walk, it may indicate that you are becoming fatigued and need to reduce your speed or the length of your walk. Maintaining a good posture and stride can help you prevent injuries and let your body know when it is time to stop.
  • New Exercise Regimen: Sometimes, the best way to improve your fitness walking is to try a new complementary exercise routine. Work on your flexibility with a stretching or yoga routine. For a fun cardio workout, try a Zumba or aerobics class instead. Maybe it’s just what you need to get back out there and enjoy walking again.

Final thoughts

With any exercise, it is essential to listen to your body and give it the care and rest it needs. Walking provides your body with many amazing health benefits; however, sometimes, you may be overdoing it with your walking routine. Remember with walking being consistent is more important than being intense, and even a little can go a long way. So if you need it, don’t worry about taking that break. Rest up, switch it up, and get back to walking!

Get Pacer

If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

Sources:

Is It Possible To Walk Too Much? (2019). Walk Secrets. 

The Best Low-Impact Exercises That Burn the Most Calories. (2019). By Lisa Sefcik. LiveStrong.

How Walking Can Help Reduce Health Risks. (2016). Community Health Center. 

2 thoughts on “Are you walking too many miles? Key physical & mental signs.

  1. I may be an interesting case study for walking. I walk 3 times a day 365 days a year with my 78 lb. American Staph. Terrier at min. 6 miles about 15,000 + steps. Starting several years ago my now Service dog and I would walk maybe 4 blocks. When I started this regimen I was recovering from a botched internal operation and had lost over 40 lbs. I still weigh less than 150 lbs. I live in forever constant pain and cannot ascertain when I’m overtraining. Thank you for the blog regarding ‘Overtraining’. Russ

    1. Congratulations on all of the walking! It’s great to hear you’ve achieved so much. Sorry to hear about the pain, and please be careful. I’m glad the piece was helpful, and thanks for using Pacer!

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