The biggest component to any effective walking program will be to have a goal. Your goal may be as simple as walking to be active or you may want to be able to walk 5 or 10 miles without breaking. No matter what the goal may be, you need to have a set goal in order to be successful. Once you are able to accomplish this then you are well on your way to achieving anything you set your mind to!
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Alison Zemanek - NASM Elite Trainer, NASM Elite Trainer, Fitness, answered
The components of an effective walking program are the same as those for any cardiovascular fitness program. It is important to push the body past it's comfort level. So, start your walking program at a pace that is a bit of work for you. When that level becomes easier and comfortable (could be anywhere from 4-12 weeks), then walk a bit faster. Maintain that faster pace until it too becomes easier and comfortable. Continue this pattern. The body adapts to the workload you place upon it. So, it is most important for you to continue to place new and more challenging expectations upon your system if you want to progress in your program. Eventually, your walking program may need to become a walk/jog program.
You can utilize an interval program for your walks as well. Pick up the pace for several minutes so that your heart rate comes up to a level 6 (see chart below for level descriptions). Then slow it down for as long as it takes for your heart rate to return to normal, or level 2-3. As soon as your heart rate is down, pick the pace up again as you did before, for several minutes. Continue this up/down pattern throughout your walk. As you progress, you should notice that your heart rate recovers more quickly after an effort. So, you may be able to walk or jog for 2-3 minutes and then take only 1 minute for recovery. A heart rate monitor is always a very useful tool, but you can also use Rate of Perceived Exertion to estimate your heart rate.
Level 10 = Max Effort (Almost impossible to keep going. Out of breathe, and not able to talk at all.)
Level 9 = Very Hard (Difficult to maintain this intensity. Barely able to breathe and speak)
Level 7-8 = Vigorous (Getting to a point of discomfort. Short of breathe, but able to speak a sentence)
Level 4-6 = Moderate (You could maintain this level for hours. Breathing is labored, but you can hold short conversations)
Level 2-3 = Light (You could maintain this level for hours. Breathing is easy, and you can hold a full conversation.
Level 1 = Very Light (Normal day to day activities that do not involve sitting, standing still, or lying down)