Have you made a New Year’s resolution to improve your fitness in 2023?

If you have, that’s great! This blog will help you to start your journey with one of the simplest, but most effective ways to improve your fitness, especially if you are starting from a point of very little, or even no exercise experience at all!

We have collected some simple ideas to kick start your fitness plan by walking your way to health.

Don`t worry if you aren’t sure if this plan will be suitable for you, it can be adapted for any level of fitness (or lack thereof)!

Firstly, let`s look at some of the reasons for choosing walking as a great way of improving your fitness and your health.

  1. Better circulation: Walking boosts your circulation by raising your heart rate, this in turn will strengthen your heart and make it pump more efficiently. Once you have established walking as a regular habit, both your heart and lungs will become more powerful and will be able to transport more oxygenated blood to all parts of your body.
  2. Stronger bones: Walking is a ‘load-bearing’ exercise which will promote bone density and at the same time help your connective tissues to remain supple and resilient.
  3. Healthier weight: Raising your heart rate and working your muscles will also raise your metabolism and you will burn many more calories than you would when at rest, so an active walking programme will help greatly if you are attempting weight loss or weight management.
  4. Improved mental wellbeing: There is also growing evidence that walking for fitness will not also benefit your physical fitness but can have a real impact on how you feel mentally. By committing to regular exercise you can lift your mood and gain many of the other benefits of being in the great outdoors.


Great! So where do I start?  

First of all you need to ensure you are satisfied that there are no medical issues that may be inadvertently affected by exercising. Most diagnosed and stable conditions will only benefit from starting to exercise, but you may want to consult your medical practitioner before you begin.

So let’s start… at the end!

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that if you can walk at least 100 steps per minute, you’re walking fast enough to reap substantial fitness benefits, like the ones we spoke about above.

Let’s take the target of walking 5km (3.1 miles) in an hour. This equates to 4-5kph (kilometres per hour) and depending on stride length, would mean you are doing anywhere between 90-110 steps per minute.

Of course, no one wants to spend the entirety of their walk counting their steps! Perhaps at certain intervals count your steps for 1 minute – to check that you are keeping good pace and keeping your heart rate up.

(If you have splashed out on a digital fitness tracker, now is the time to use it! That will do the job for you. if you have one then you may also be able to monitor your heart rate during your walks. Great!)

Let’s look at target heart rates in more detail. This is the amount of beats your heart should be doing while exercising to achieve the health benefits mentioned above.


Firstly, let’s find your current heart beats per minute:

  1. Place the tips of your index and middle fingers on the inside of your left wrist until you can feel a pulse. Don’t use your thumb to measure your pulse, as your thumb has a pulse of its own. This could give you an inaccurate reading.
  2. Look at a clock or watch and count the number of beats you feel with your fingertips for 10 seconds.
  3. Once you have that number, multiply the number by 6 to get your bpm (beats per minute). So, for instance, if you counted 20 beats in 10 seconds, your heart rate would be 120 beats per minute (20×6).

Remember this will vary differently on activity.

Now let’s find your Maximum Heart Rate. This is the maximum about of beats your heart can do in a minute, regardless of activity.

The formula requires that you assume your age-related maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute (bpm) minus your age in years.

So, for a 40-year-old person, it’d be 220 – 40 = 180 bpm.

Fantastic. Now we know your maximum heart rate, and your current heart rate at the moment. Now, we are looking to figure out your target heart range, which is how many beats your heart should be doing while exercising – in order to achieve those health benefits we spoke about earlier.

To figure out your personal target heart rate range, do the following:

  • For the low end of your target heart rate, multiply 220 bpm minus your age by 0.50 (50 percent). For example, for a 40-year-old it’d be 180 bpm x 0.50 = 90 bpm.
  • For the high end of your target heart rate, multiply 220 bpm minus your age by 0.85 (85 percent). For example, for a 40-year-old it’d be 180 bpm x 0.85 = 153 bpm.
  • So for our 40 year old person, their target heart rate while walking would be between 90 and 153 beats per minute.

Here is a graph that has already calculated it for you:

Age in years Target bpm
(50–85 percent of maximum)
20 100–170 bpm
30 95–162 bpm
45 88–149 bpm
50 85–145 bpm
60 80–136 bpm
70 75–128 bpm


(The formula will not be strictly scientifically accurate as it is based on averages across populations, however as it generally underestimates a person’s maximum heart rate this will ensure you are not going to end up exercising at a level that is inappropriate.)


So now you know how many beats to aim for when you are counting your pulse whilst you walk!

Exercising at your target heart rate means you’re getting the greatest benefit from your walk.

As shown above, the safe target heart rate while exercising, for most adults, is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your target heart rate during ‘moderate’ intensity exercise is around 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you want to calculate your target heart rate for ‘vigorous’ activity, it will be around 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

However, if you are just starting out on your goal of getting fitter, there is no need to exercise at anything over than what would be considered ‘moderate’. Exercising at higher levels may be counter-productive if your body is not used to exercising. This is because your body may not have the resilience to cope with higher than moderate intensity and could make you more prone to injury, or you might find it so challenging that it demotivates you from continuing. So take it steady to begin with!

So as you can see there are lots of ways that you can find out the appropriate pace at which to walk for fitness.

Monitoring your pace and performance is a good way to keep track of your progress on your fitness journey. You can keep records either digitally on your personal fitness tracking device or simply write them down, perhaps once a fortnight. After approximately 12 weeks, compare your starting data to where you are now and you should see some measurable improvements!

As walking is generally on the lower end of the intensity scale it is perfectly alright to repeat your programme daily, however measurable improvements will still occur with less frequency, if you walk often enough. For example, if you walked for fitness two to three times per week for three months you would make more progress than if you walked everyday for a week and then missed a week and repeated that pattern for three months. Your body recognises when you are asking it to perform slightly above what it is used to and when there is some form of repeatability.

Happy walking!

Please see our Health Walks timetable run by our Wellness Coaches across Kirklees

Move More | Kirklees Wellness Service

Refer to the Wellness Service