Start with a modest goal, like 15 to 20 minutes at a leisurely pace. Your walk should be comprised of three segments: warm-up, exercise pace and cool-down.
• Walk the first 5 minutes at a reduced pace, about 50% your maximum effort.
• Then pause and do some stretches. Focus on your calves, front of thigh (quadriceps), back of thigh (hamstrings) and lower back. Stretching not only feels great, but it keeps your body flexible and it may help prevent injuries. Remember: stretching is only effective once your muscles are warm, and stretches should be gradual and sustained. Hold each for 30 seconds and never bounce or force movements.
• After stretching, walk at an exercise pace. On average, brisk walking for 1 mile can range, depending on your age and general condition, from 15 to 20 minutes, or about 3 to 4 miles per hour. Remember: Never exert yourself beyond feeling as if you are doing "moderate" work. A good test is that you should be able to carry on a conversation while you walk.
• Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, and let your arms swing naturally.
Remember that your heel should strike the ground first, and that you should push off with your toe.
• Try to keep an even stride and maintain a steady pace.
• The last 5 minutes of your walk, gradually slow down to your warm-up pace. Then, finish with a few more stretches. Stretching after you walk gives your body time to cool down and your muscles a chance to relax. It also helps your heart return gradually to a normal rate.
Gradually, perhaps on a weekly basis, add 5 minutes to the brisk part of your walk. Keep the stretches as part of your routine. Once you're walking for 30 minutes or more, try to increase the distance you go, for example, a block at a time within the same time frame. For optimal fitness, exercise at the brisk pace of your walk for a minimum of 20 minutes, four times a week.