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Getting fit enough to walk 12000 steps a day

My last trip I walked 12000 to 15000 steps a day. And I had not prepared myself for that much walking. The days that I hit 15000 steps left me exhausted. I did alright, but for my next trip I want to be better prepared. My problem is that I just don't have the time to spend hours walking, Would doing muscle building exercises, be a better way to build up for the walking that I will be doing? Any thoughts on what sort of exercise I should be doing?

Posted by
849 posts

Building muscle and building endurance are two entirely different animals, so to speak. If you concentrate on building muscle by lifting weights you will get stronger, but this won’t necessarily increase your endurance. If you concentrate on endurance exercises you won’t necessarily build muscle. But, if you do some of both, you will get the best of both worlds. It’s been shown in many studies that the most effective way to exercise is by doing HIIT workouts that will challenge both strength and endurance, and a workout can be as short as 20 minutes and still be effective. I also find HIIT workouts far more interesting than long slow cardio or weight lifting. There are endless varieties of YouTube videos that you can follow for free, and they come in every fitness level from beginner to just crazy. Two websites that I use regularly are hasfit.com and fitness blender.com. Both have ample selection to choose from.

Posted by
2288 posts

For what you're seeking, muscle-building ain't your answer.

It's all about mobility and agility and that only comes from doing what you'll be doing.

Posted by
627 posts

OP -- im not going to pretend to be a fitness expert but how walkable is your community? I see Bellingham gets a high walkable score, but that does not necessarily account for all areas of the city, suburbs, etc. I've always disliked exercise merely for the sake of exercise, I would rather accomplish something and I'm fortunate to live in a very walkable city so I just walk everywhere. I'll walk to the grocery store, the café, library and so on. Gets miles in, it makes the day a lot more relaxed and less hurried. Are there any errands you can take care of by walking?

Posted by
2326 posts

The only way to build endurance is to spend the time building endurance. The suggestions above are good ones. Look into training programs for "Couch to 5k" (there are runs and walks) that help you plan out a gradual increase in activity. Also try to do as much standing as possible. In my opinion, it's not really the walking but the standing for long periods of time (e.g. in art museums or on walking tours). Good luck!

Posted by
350 posts

You don't necessarily have to spend hours to build endurance. You can get into a routine of jogging and walking to get your steps up and it could be relatively easy to get to 12k steps if you do some jogging.

I ran a little over 4 miles "early" this morning (around 7am) and by the time I got to work, I have 7,221 steps and that's just at 9:30am.

Perhaps the best place to start is where you're at. Track how many steps a day you typically do without changing your routine. Perhaps you are already tracking that. So say you get 5,000 steps in a day. Well, how about then just add a jog in every other day in which you jog just 10 minutes along with maintaining your previous routines. How does that feel?

Then slowly over time change and add to your routine to build up your steps.

I think a few key important parts are:
1. first tracking what your regular routine is and how many steps you do
2. then slightly pushing that routine beyond regular and add some more steps
3. then just keep expanding from there
4. it can get tiring after an initial upbeat feeling of changing one's routine so also build in a day or so a week (or a day or two every two weeks) to break your routine and just not bother with worrying about how many steps you do

Hope this helps!

Posted by
4078 posts

Very good reply by Anita. A combination of strength and endurance is important. The muscle building comes into play to protect your joints, especially on uneven surfaces that you'll encounter. Find some staircases as well and walk up and down, and make them part of a daily walk habit. Finally, do some stretching before and after.

Posted by
1625 posts

I find we are always so much more fit at the end of a trip than at the beginning, just showing how fast you can build up endurance with consistency. I am just now (21 days out) preparing for my upcoming trip by just walking 20 min a day (consistently) and working on strengthening the muscles that support my knees so my quads, by doing leg presses and my glutes by doing deep squats and some machines at the gym. I do walk on a treadmill at an incline. I use the treadmill time to listen to podcasts on subjects that I want to gain more knowledge on (currently on an AI kick). So whatever you decide to do just be consistent and focus on the muscles that are used while walking, hamstrings, glutes, quads.

Also do not underestimate good shoes for walking while on a trip. They can make a world of different on your body alignment and foot health, resulting in less leg/foot fatigue and no injuries. I can't tell you how may stories I hear of people not anticipating that they will be walking 10K+ steps a day on a trip and developing planters factitious while traveling and being unable to walk for the rest of the trip.

Posted by
13906 posts

I go for a base of about an hour of walking 2-3 days a week then do a longer walk one day of the week which for you could be on a weekend day. I go up about 10% per week for 3 weeks then drop back on week 4, then increase week 5/6/7. I can easily get up to 7-8 miles and keep cycling those numbers thru.

3 days a week - 3-4 miles I walk this base mileage for a few weeks
week 1 long walk - 4 miles plus 10%. Really I just bump this to 5 miles and it's doable for me
week 2 long walk - 5 miles plus 10%, which I really just make 6
week 3 long walk - 6 miles plus 10%, which, you've got it, I just make 7
week 4 long walk - back to 6 miles
week 5 long walk - jump to 8
week 6 long walk - jump to 9
week 7 long walk....what's your target? If it's 7 or 8 or 9, I just go back to 6/7/8 miles for a long walk or 7/8/9

I used to use Leslie Sansone a lot during the winter. She has some hour long walks that are good. I like Jessica Smith's walking workouts as well and can tolerate her better than Leslie constantly staying what always sounds to me like "wok,wok,wok", lol!!

You also don't have to do all your walking at one time depending on your schedule. I'm guessing you still work so maybe 30 minutes in the AM, 30 in the PM?

I agree with everyone that for myself the only way to build walking endurance is to do it.

Posted by
6274 posts

If you want to prepare yourself with a lot of walking, then you need to walk. I've known people who lift weights and are very strong, but are exhausted after running a couple of miles. And I don't see the need to jog or run in order build up endurance. Just increase your walking time, and try to add in hills and other walking surfaces.

For example, look online for potential walking schedules, like this one from Berkeley University: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/health-topics/exercise-starting-walking-program It has some great information in there about building up your walking endurace, and also walking techniques.

Beginner - Try walking briskly at a 3 to 3.5-mph pace (walking a mile in 17-20 minutes), beginning with 10 minutes per day for the first three weeks. Slowly increase the time you walk by 5 minutes per week until you are able to walk 30 minutes per day, six days per week.

Intermediate - If you are already regularly active, start at this level. If not, you can continue here after about a month of the "Beginner" program. Aiming for a pace of 3.5 to 4.5 mph (13-17 minutes per mile), walking 3 miles (about 45 minutes), 3-5 times per week. If you find that you can't walk that fast, increase the distance that you walk instead.

Advanced - If you are ready to take your walking to the next level, increase the intensity of your workout by doing the following:

  • Walk/hike with a 10-15 lb. backpack
  • Add uphill/downhill and stairclimbing to your regular walks
  • Walk on the beach; the sand will increase your intensity level
  • Use 2-3 lb hand weights and continue your arm swing motion
  • Try racewalking (5-9 mph). There are many local organizations and competitions you can join.
Posted by
350 posts

@Mardee wrote:

And I don't see the need to jog or run in order build up endurance. Just increase your walking time, and try to add in hills and other walking surfaces.

True, there's no need to jog or run to build up endurance. But, given that OP said they cannot spend that much time walking so many steps (12k plus or so?) jogging is a faster way to complete that many steps. And jogging can be done very slowly too. Indeed, one could also walk faster if there isn't enough time. Either way, if OP cannot find that much time to do enough steps, they'll need to either walk faster or jog if they want to complete 12k steps.

Posted by
2716 posts

A lot of the walking prep depends on your fitness before you start and how much time you give yourself to get into shape. Your age, health and fitness level will also make a difference. Pam, Mardee and others gave you good ideas, but I think they are relative fit to start with. I have a couple other suggestions. I'm almost 73, with arthritis in my back and elsewhere (cortisone injections do not work for me). When walking I count miles not steps.

When I went to France in September 2022, I was in good shape. I walked 3 1/2 miles four times a week including hills, walked up stairs 150 to 200 times and down the same; I did strength exercises and lifted weights. I did great on the trip, walking up to 8 miles a day. Then I got covid two weeks after coming home. It knocked me out for a month and then there was Christmas.
In January I started exercising again but never did recover the stamina I had. I walked slower and less on my June trip and discovered how easy local transport is in Europe.

So now I have a year to get into walking & stair climbing shape for Italy trip. Only a fool walks outside when nighttime temperatures are 90°+ and Phoenix is setting records for the most days over 110° and 115°. So I had to come up with alternatives.
1) I started slowly doing strength and flexibility exercises, adding repetitions and more exercises. Right now I'm doing 25 minutes and will work up to 45 and from 3# weights to 5#. That doesn't help with the walking.
2) Have your thought of using a treadmill? It's really not the same as walking outside, but helps. My hubby thought a treadmill would be the answer so we bought this one https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LFTFL1I?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details On low incline 25 minutes is providing a good workout, using more energy than walking on the flat. As I increase my stamina, I will increase walking time and incline.
3) Even my hubby who never exercises is walking on the treadmill. Advantage is you can watch TV or ?? so you don't feel like you have time.
4) In a couple months when Phoenix cools down, I'll start walking outside to the level I did before, an hour walking 3 miles plus the 200 stairs.

Posted by
2708 posts

You have received some excellent advice. In addition to walking as much as you can, walk whenever you have the opportunity. If you can walk instead of drive when doing an errand, walk. If you take an elevator to get to your workplace, take the stairs instead. When you are talking on the phone, walk instead of sit. Stuff like this will help.

Posted by
350 posts

@horsewoofie, I don't envy the temperatures you're experiencing! YIKES! Too, too hot!

In the southeast US, we are experiencing also what feels to me much longer periods of humidity. I barely remember the last time when it felt already muggy and hot early in the morning, but that's exactly what we've been experiencing here. It's why I started running soon after I get up in the morning (around 6:30am or 7am) instead of doing it at the end of the day which for years has been more typical for me. It's still very muggy and hot at 6:30am, but it's way worse at the end of the day.

I like your suggestion about using miles as a possible alternative instead of steps. That's another way to go about it.

I think what's important is OP first get a sense of where they are at. They can use miles or steps to determine that (or even minutes). Basically, know what the baseline is. From there, ADD to that in a sustainable way in which you continually challenge your body a bit at a time.

Posted by
87 posts

If there is a indoor mall near, then the weather can not be an excuse. Most malls open early for staff and walkers before the stores actually open. I do 5 laps almost every day in our mall which is about an hour, 3.5 miles, no rain, snow, or humidity. You just have to get in the habit of doing it. Start out less and build up, give yourself permission to miss a day if you promise to get there the following 2 days. If you are like us, days of not walking we feel stiff/bad and like something is missing. Walking is great for anyone that can't do other exercise. Make it a life long commitment, not just travel prep.

We are in much better shape than most people our age (mid 60s) and we have been on some great tours but sometimes there is a day where the tour does 15000+ steps. We feel really bad for those that are not able, especially if it has not been made real clear in the tour descriptions.

Posted by
6274 posts

Have your thought of using a treadmill? It's really not the same as walking outside, but helps.

horsewoofie, good advice! We have a treadmill at home and I use it often in the Duluth winters. You can park it in front of the TV, which helps pass the time. Another option if the weather is bad and you don't want to spring for a treadmill is to just walk in place. I've done that on occasion and I figure if it keeps me moving, it's good exercise. Just like the treadmill, you can watch TV and walk in place at the same time. :)

I will also tell you the biggest motivator for me is to tell myself I only have to walk for 10 minutes. After that I can stop. Invariably once I'm out there, I keep walking for much longer, but just the knowledge that I can stop if I want gets me started - and that is always the biggest hurdle.

Muriel, I totally get that. But it only works if you like to jog or run. 😊 I do not and never have, although I know people who do, like my daughter who has run ultramarathons (interesting that we have similar genes, ha!). But I agree it's a quicker method. In fact, that would be one way for the OP to keep walking (or jogging if s/he wants). When my daughter trains for an ultramarathon, she runs 5-8 miles a few days each week, but then 1 or 2 days will be her long runs of 15-25 miles. She does this for 4-5 months before the marathon and then is ready to run the 60-100 miles she needs to for the actual event.

So the OP could walk 1-2 miles a day maybe 2-3 days a week and then one week would be a longer walk of 3-5+ miles, which would help to build up endurance (and speed). :)

Posted by
592 posts

I try to get 12,500 steps most days. If I need to walk in front of the tv and around the house to get them, I do. When I go to the grocery store, I park at the other side of the lot. It all adds up.

When you get home from vacation, keep the routine going for your next trip!

Posted by
4675 posts

I volunteer at the local animal shelter, and walk the big dogs on a regular basis. So I get my walking exercise, and the shelter dogs get an escape from their kennels and also receive some much-needed exercise. Walking is more fun if you're not just thinking about walking.
Safe travels to all!

Posted by
2716 posts

As Letitia said, good shoes (and socks) are a must. If you hurt, you don’t want to walk or exercise. If in doubt visit a good podiatrist. Earlier in the year my foot started hurting, feeling like another neuroma (I’ve had three removed). Turned out to be seed corns which have taken a bit of babying to get better.

Also be sure your prescriptions are current. After I got home in June I had my annual check-up and one prescription was updated. Stay current with all of your doctors.