Power Your Walk Challenge: Walking Workouts to Shake Up Any Routine

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Playing with your walking speed, incline, and time on foot can give you even bigger health benefits (and make everyday tasks feel so much easier).

Power Your Walk Challenge: Walking Workouts

This is Step #2 in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge. Find the full step-by-step guide here. And download the activity guide here. Enjoy your walk! 

When it comes to walking, it’s easy to go on autopilot. Maybe you walk around the same block, for the same amount of time, at the same pace each day. Or your neighborhood power walk group has turned into more of a casual stroll group. But a stagnant routine can mean stagnant results, too.

Now, any activity is better than no activity. In fact, a 2022 international review in Lancet Public Health found that just taking more steps each day was linked with a lower risk of death from any cause. This is true regardless of whether the steps are taken at the grocery store or while hiking up a mountain. Plus, sometimes it’s just a victory to get your sneakers on and step out the door.

But to get the most benefits you can from walking, you need to constantly change it up. “By altering your walking intensity, you will continue to challenge your aerobic fitness, and that’s good for heart health,” says Dina Sexton, a SilverSneakers Walk Strong (Express) instructor based in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. 

Not only will challenging yourself with walking workouts benefit your heart and lungs, improve sleep, and better help you manage your weight. It might also prevent age-related muscle loss and boost your body’s power.

The best part: These rewards spread far beyond your exercise time. The more muscle and aerobic endurance you have, the more independent you’ll stay. And the easier everyday tasks will feel. 

Need to walk the grandkids home from the bus? No problem! Want to haul compost and mulch to your flower beds? Done and done. 

You don’t need to be an Olympian or a fitness guru to challenge yourself. All you need is a playful spirit — and a little bit of inspiration. 

How to Use These Walking Workouts

Choose the walking plan below under “Find Your Walking Workouts” that best fits your goals and current fitness level. Each plan has three tailored walking workouts for you to try. 

To get started, you’ll just need yourself, a walking path you feel stable on, and supportive and comfortable shoes. If you prefer to walk indoors on a treadmill, we’ve included guidance on treadmill speed and other settings.

You can do these workouts as often as you like, just make sure you have at least one rest or non-walking activity day in between workouts. (Examples of non-walking activities include swimming, gardening, dancing, or your favorite SilverSneakers class.) It will ensure you recover well and feel ready to tackle your next walking challenge with gusto. 

Each workout lists a recommended time and pace. Here’s how to match your effort level with the suggested speed:

  • Easy Walk: You should be able to comfortably hold a conversation without getting out of breath.Goal treadmill speed: 2.5 to 3 mph
  • Brisk Walk: You’re breathing noticeably harder. You still have enough energy to speak if you want to, but you definitely can’t sing. Goal treadmill speed: 3 to 3.5 mph
  • Speed Walk: Now you’re cooking with steam. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Goal treadmill speed: 3.5 to 4 mph

Remember: Listen to your body. If a walking pace or length doesn’t feel right, adjust it as needed. It’s better to start slow and short and feel good then push your body too soon.

As always, if you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Find these Walking Workouts plus a sample training plan to follow along with in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge Activity Guide. Download it here.

Find Your Walking Workouts 

Plan A: Get Started

This plan is for beginners or those who want to focus on making regular walking a habit.

Workout #1: 10-Minute Walk
10-minute Easy walk

Workout #2: On/Off
Alternate: Easy walk for 2-minutes, stop or slow walk for 1-minute. Repeat 5-8 times.

Workout #3: Two-A-Day
2, 5- to 10-minute Easy walks spread out in the day

Plan B: Speed Up 

This plan is for regular walkers who are ready for a challenge. Playing with your cadence is a great way to get a stellar workout in the same (or less) time.

Workout #1: Hill Repeats
Warmup: Easy walk for 5 to 10 minutes
Alternate: Brisk walk uphill for 30 seconds, then slowly (and carefully) make your way back down. Repeat 5 times.
Cooldown: Easy walk for 5 to 10 minutes

Workout #2: 10-Minute Speed Intervals
Warmup: Easy walk for 5 to 10 minutes
Alternate: Speed walk for 1 minute, Easy walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 5-8 times.
Cooldown: Easy walk for 5 to 10 minutes

Workout #3: 30-Minute Progressive Speed Walk
Minutes 1-10: Easy walk
Minutes 10-15: Brisk walk
Minutes 15-20: Speed walk
Minutes 20-25: Brisk walk
Minutes 25-30: Easy walk

Plan C: Go the Distance

This plan is for experienced walkers who want to build up their endurance, whether you have a big trip coming up or just want to have more overall stamina.

Workout #1: The Long Walk
Add 5 to 10 minutes to your most recent easy walk time.

For example, if you’ve been comfortably walking for 30 minutes, make your long walk no more than 40 minutes.

Tip: Building up your total walk time slowly can help reduce injury risk. A good rule of thumb: Add no more than 10 minutes to your longest walk each week.

Workout #2: Strength Intervals
Warmup: Easy walk for 5 minutes
Alternate: Brisk walk for 5 minutes, then do non-walking exercises of your choice for 5 minutes. Repeat 2 times.
Cooldown: Easy walk for 5 minutes

Example exercises: squats, monster walk (side steps), calf raises

Workout #3: Two-a-Day
2, 15- to 25-minute Easy walks spread out throughout the day

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Plan D: Walk with Assistance

This plan is for those who use a cane or walker, or who just feel a little uneasy on the go.

Workout #1: Out-and-Backs
Pick a goal location, such as your mailbox, neighbor’s house or street sign.
Easy walk out to your goal location at a pace that’s right for you, and Easy walk back.

Workout #2: Close-to-Home Strength Intervals
Alternate: Easy walk for 5 minutes, then do non-walking exercises of your choice for 5 minutes.
Repeat 1 to 3 times.

Example exercises: sit-to-stands in a chair, alternating knee lifts, wall pushups 

Workout #3: On/off
Warmup: Easy walk for 5 to 10 minutes
Alternate: Brisk walk for 30 seconds, Easy walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 4-7 times.
Cooldown: Easy walk for 5 to 10 minutes

These walking workouts are part of the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge. Visit the Challenge’s main page for these other articles you won’t want to miss: 

  • 5-minute pre-workout mobility routine to ease stiff joints
  • 6-minute post-workout stretches to boost recovery
  • The best exercises to help you walk tall — and with confidence
  • Nutrition tips for feeling your best on the go
  • Expert advice on how to stay committed in the long haul

 

Here’s what’s next in the 7-Day Power Your Walk Challenge:

Step #3: Stretch to Ease Achy Joints and Boost Mobility

Step #4: Strengthen Your Muscles to Walk Tall and Prevent Injuries

Step #5: Eat Right to Walk Strong

Step #6: Have a Plan for Indoor Days

Step #7: Stay Committed to Your Walking Goals

Bonus Challenge: Try a SilverSneakers Walk Strong (Express) Class!

In just 15 minutes, your expert instructor will lead you through moves aimed to ease lower body stiffness, strengthen your stability muscles, and build confidence. View the schedule and RSVP here.

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