What are realistic goals I can set when walking for fitness?

Walking is a great way to increase fitness. When setting goals of any kind it’s important to understand where point “A” is first. Access your current walking fitness level. How long can you walk? What is your intensity level, best measured by the percentage of your maximum heart rate?

Then set a SMART goal.

Time Sensitive

When setting a goal it must be precise, something you can quantify, something within reach, significant to you and you must set a completion date so you know when your goal has been met. I would recommend setting a long-term goal that gets you excited. Perhaps this is to walk in a local 5k charitable event. Once the long-term goal has been established, set a few shorter, interim goals so you can celebrate progress along the way. Perhaps this is when you reach your first mile. Or walk for 30 minutes. Or walk at an intensity equal to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

And finally, reward yourself for a job well done.

Life is about the journey so enjoy the walk!

The initial questions you have to ask yourself are:  1. What is my primary goal, weight loss, improved cardiovascular endurance, general conditioning, or all of the above?  2.  What is my current fitness level, do you exercise 0 times per week, 1-2, 3-4, or 5+?  3.  How much time to you have to devote to exercise, 15-20 minute spurts, 30-45 minutes, 60+ minutes?  After answering those questions you can then set a realistic goal. 

To give an example, if you exercise 3-4 times per week and are able to devote 30-45 minutes of walking then you can feasibly push to complete 2-3 miles of which should allow time for a pre/post stretch.   All of this would be completed at a comfortable pace of walking a mile in 15:00 minutes or less.  Be sure to answer the initial questions and proceed from there.  Lastly, another way to figure out how to set a realistic goal would be to purchase a pedometer and go out for a walk, 2,000 steps is approximately 1-mile.

Realistic goals for walking for fitness will always be very individualized, based on your current physical fitness level and goals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking) per week. In other words: 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. This is a good basic guideline for setting realistic walking goals. Also, don’t be discouraged if you can’t walk for 30 minutes in one session. As long as you walk at a brisk pace for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time, you can fulfill your 30-minute daily requirement in several sessions.
While anyone who is starting or changing an exercise program is advised to discuss physical fitness goals and safety with a doctor, this is particularly important if you have a health condition, such as heart disease. For people with heart disease, a cardiac rehabilitation program at a hospital is a good place to work closely with health professionals to set realistic walking goals to improve fitness.

You can set goals for time, distance, speed, and intensity.

1.  Gradually push yourself to walk for a longer amount of time by adding 2-5 minutes to your walk each week.

2.  You can also challenge yourself my increasing the distance of your walks.  If you are unsure of how far you have walked, there are many gadgets that can help you track your distance.  A number of smart phones are equipped with GPS trackers, you can use your iPod, or use a website like where you can plan your route before you start, and know exactly how far you will be walking.

3.  Increasing the speed of your walk is another great way to achieve improvements.  if you generally walk for 30 minutes and travel 1.5 miles, increase the speed of your stride and aim for 2 miles in 30 minutes.  A 15 minute mile is a great goal.

4.  Shoot for the addition of a route with hills once a week, or walk up and down the same hill a few times to give your heart, lungs, and legs a really good workout.  You can also try to make each climb of the hill a bit faster than the previous one.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.