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Published on: 21-Jul-2023

Walking is one of the most popular aerobic activities in the US, with about six in 10 adults walking for exercise. It’s a popular activity for many reasons – it’s simple, effective, accessible, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere. With just a pair of good walking shoes, comfortable clothing, and a little time, you can get out, get moving, and get fit.

Additionally, as a low-impact activity, walking is a great exercise option for people with health issues that make high-impact exercises difficult. It is also very easy to customize your walk to meet your own requirements in terms of speed, incline, duration, and location. 

If you’re not one of the millions of people who walk for exercise, it’s time to give it a try. Here are a few important things to remember:

Wear the right footwear

Wear athletic shoes that fit correctly, support your feet properly, and feel good. Poorly fitting shoes can cause pinching, blisters, and general foot pain. And, consider purchasing shoes with extra cushioning. Several name brands produce shoes specifically for walking and running. And, be sure to break in new shoes slowly.  

Watch your arm motion

When walking, your arms act as counterweights to your legs. Make sure your movement is natural and does not destabilize your trunk. The faster you walk, the stronger your arm motion should be. Try to relax your arms and let them move naturally.

Keep your neck and shoulders loose

Stay relaxed in your neck and shoulders to avoid stiffness and pain and make walking more comfortable. Maintain good posture and keep your neck in a natural position, in line with your spine.

Check your stride

To avoid shin splints and other stress injuries, keep your steps short and under your core, which is your center of gravity. Over-striding throws your body off balance and places extra force on your legs and feet. A shorter gait provides additional stability and keeps you balanced. If you’re trying to increase your pace, take shorter, quicker steps.

Slowly build your intensity

Walking doesn’t always have to be an intense workout, but if your goal is weight loss or improved fitness, it’s important to get your heart rate up, and at minimum, a moderate intensity is required to do so. To avoid injury, slowly build up to this level by gradually increasing the duration, distance, and pace of your walks.


For longer or more intense walks, carry water with you and drink a small amount at regular intervals. It’s important to start out hydrated as well, so be sure to hydrate a few hours before your walk.

Stay safe

Safety first! Always know where you are and how to get back. Plan your route and make sure others know where you are walking. You can also consider sharing your location on your phone. Choose a route that’s safe with minimal traffic and wear brightly colored gear, choosing reflective wear if you’re walking at dusk or after. If you’re talking on the phone or listening to music, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and can hear traffic.

Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center