The 21-Day Walking Challenge Is the Exercise Secret for Beginners

8 minute read

You don’t need an expensive gym membership, fancy equipment, or the latest app to begin your fitness journey. If you have a comfortable, supportive pair of walking shoes and a sidewalk, that’s plenty.

You hear all the time that exercise is good for you, and the facts do nothing but support this. Physical activity can help improve your overall health, help you live longer, and have a lower risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke, depression, and even some cancers.

Jumping that hurdle from thinking about being more physically active to actually doing it can be quite a challenge for a lot of people, but it’s perfectly fine to start slow and ease your way into it. No one’s asking you to start training for a marathon right out of the gate. Getting out there and getting moving is the main point.

For People Who Love Structure

In 2015, only about 50% of adults in the U.S. reached the recommended amount of physical activity per week as set by the CDC (150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity). A whopping 25% of adults in the U.S. didn’t get any leisure-time activity at all.

| Related: 8 Awesome Health Benefits From Walking 30 Minutes Every Day |

Maybe you haven’t exercised since P.E. class in high school. Maybe you haven’t really exercised ever and have no idea where to begin and crave a set schedule.

Try starting out here to work your way up to longer exercise sessions. It’s not good to try to do too much, too fast.

Week 1

The first week is pretty simple and is designed to get your body prepared for more vigorous exercise.

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For the first day, set aside just 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening to walk. You should be moving at an easy-to-moderate pace, a moderate pace being faster than a leisurely stroll, but you should still be able to have a conversation.

For the rest of the week, add on 2-3 minutes every day until you’re walking 18 minutes in the morning and 18 minutes in the evening by day 7.

Week 2

Now that your body is getting used to regular physical activity, it’s time to up the intensity a bit by pushing yourself to walk at an even faster pace (brisk means it should be hard to have a conversation).

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You’ll increase the amount of calories you burn and reap even more exercise-related benefits. Here’s a breakdown:

Day 8: Warm up with a couple of minutes at an easy pace, then switch to a brisk pace for the next 10 minutes. Cool down with another couple of minutes at an easy pace.

Day 9:  Walk 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 10: Day 10 is similar to day 8. Start off with 5 minutes at an easy pace, walk briskly for 12 minutes, then cool down with another 5 minutes at an easy pace.

Day 11: Walk 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 12: Walk at an easy pace for 5 minutes, but this time increase your brisk time to 15 minutes, then cool down for another 5.

Day 13: Walk 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 14: This is the same as day 12, but increase the brisk pace to 18 minutes.

Week 3

You’re almost there! In the final week, it’s time to up the intensity yet again. Strength training can be as simple as walking up stairs or up an incline, which is what is added to week 3.

Day 15: Warm up for a couple of minutes at an easy pace, then walk up a set of stairs or an incline for 10 minutes. Finish off with another couple of minutes of an easy pace for a cool down.

Day 16: Walk 25 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 17: This is the same as day 15, but increase the stairs/incline time to 12 minutes, followed by 3 minutes of brisk walking, then your cool down.

Day 18: Walk 25 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 19: Do your warm up walking, then do stairs or incline for 20 minutes, followed by the cool down.

Day 20: Walk 25 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 21: Take a break from inclines for the last day and warm up for a couple of minutes, followed by 20 minutes of brisk walking, then a couple of minutes of an easy pace for your cool down.

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After you’ve completed this 21-day challenge, don’t stop there! Continue to push yourself to do longer walks, faster paces, and more inclines.

For People Who Want to Keep It Simple

If you’re not into following a day-by-day plan, then take this super-simple, 21-day challenge: Walk for 30 minutes every day.

Whether you’re taking a stroll around the block, walking during your lunch break, or power walking through the mall, dedicate yourself to getting your 30 minutes in every single day. You don’t even have to get all 30 minutes in at once.

A 10-minute walk with your morning coffee, a 10 minute walk at lunch, and a 10 minute walk after dinner is fine. Break it up however you like, just get those 30 minutes in.

Any kind of walking is better than none, but if you get 30 minutes of exercise in a day that’s vigorous enough to give you a light sweat, it could be even more effective than one hour of similar exercise per day.

Keep It Interesting

A great way to keep your walks fun and interesting is to take advantage of the time you’re setting aside to catch up on your favorite audiobook or podcast, or to finally listen to that new album that you haven’t had time for.

This doesn’t mean that you should discount tuning out during a peaceful walk through the park or somewhere else that gets you out of the urban hustle and bustle. A 2015 study found that 90 minutes of walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.

Don’t have 90 minutes per day for exercising? Shake up your walking routine once a week with a calming hike and tune in with nature.

The Bottom Line

Dedicate yourself to one of these 21-day challenges, and you could feel more energized, stronger, and healthier in just 3 weeks. Too many of us lead sedentary lives, and these simple changes can help fix that.

Do the 21-day challenge, commit to it, and see how much it can improve your health and well-being, but don’t stop there. Now that you’ve taken those first steps into the world of physical activity, keep up the momentum and continue to push yourself.

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