How Many Miles Should I Walk a Day?

Ask a Doctor

I’m 67, and my doctor said that my heart is weakening. It’s not serious yet, but it’s a result of a congenital condition. She told me that starting an exercise program would help my cardiovascular fitness. As I’m an older woman and have never done a formal exercise program in my life, I’m going to start with walking. How much should I do it? How many miles should I walk a day?

Doctor’s Response

Walking is a type of aerobic exercise that can increase cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. Walking is also low-impact and is often recommended for those just starting a fitness program because it is simple and requires no special equipment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults perform moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as a brisk walk a minimum of 30 minutes, five days per week (or a total of 2 hours, 30 minutes) to reduce the risk of disease later in life. This exercise can be done in smaller increments, such as 10 minutes, three times daily, for the same health benefits.

While 30 minutes of walking five days per week can prevent chronic disease as you age, it is not enough to lose weight or prevent weight gain. To avoid weight gain, the Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity most days per week.

  • Try to exercise at least five days a week.
  • Not exercising will sabotage any weight loss plan. Add movement, even in short 10-minute bursts throughout your day to get in 30 minutes a day.
  • Simple measures such as parking at the far end of the parking lot and taking the stairs instead of the elevator eventually add up to help you lose weight.
  • Exercise strengthens your muscles and improves the function of your heart and lungs.
  • If you are obese, particularly if you are inactive or have medical problems, check with a health care professional before starting an exercise program.

When walking for weight loss, distance is important, not speed. Wear a pedometer to measure your steps and then find ways to add steps during your daily activity.

  • To exercise, walk at a pace and distance that puts no strain on the body. Set reasonable goals. If you walk until you become tired, you will be exhausted when you stop.
  • Walk with smooth, rhythmic motions at an easy pace.
  • Each time you walk, walk slowly for the first five minutes to warm up. After five minutes, walk for 10 minutes at a faster rate if you can. Do not overdo it. You may stop to rest at any time.
  • When you have walked for 10 minutes without stopping, your first goal has been reached. The new goal should be to walk for a little longer time (say, 12 minutes). Continue to set new goals without overdoing it. It is important not to walk too fast or too long.
  • Chart your progress.
Gayle M. Galletta, MD, co-authored this article. REFERENCES:

Franklin, PhD, Barry A, Robert E Sallis, MD, FAAFP, FACSM and Francis G O'Connor, MD, MPH, FACSM. Prescribing exercise for adults. 22 August 2018. 10 November 2018 .

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2008. 10 November 2018 .