iWalk Toolkit

The Basics

Why Walk?

Walking is one of the best ways to get and stay physically active. It's tremendously easy—no special training is needed. It's inexpensive—all you need is a good pair of shoes. It's portable—you can walk just about anywhere in various weather conditions.

The benefits of walking are countless. You can improve your health, help the planet, and ease the burden on your pocketbook all by walking more! Consider these benefits:

Health Benefits

Walking briskly (15 – 20 minute mile pace) is considered moderate physical activity. Moderate physical activity has been shown to help prevent:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression

Walking can also help you stay at a healthy weight, maintain cognitive function as you age, reduce stress, sleep better, and feel better overall!

Transportation Benefits

Many of the trips that Americans make can be accomplished on foot or via wheelchair. Forty percent of all trips are less than two miles in length. That means you could walk them in 30 minutes or less. And for very short trips (1 mile or less), walking is often faster than driving, once you factor in finding parking and traffic stops.

Walking also reduces the amount of cars on the road. This in turn lowers the number of accidents and cuts down on noise pollution.

Environmental Benefits

Walking instead of driving, especially for short trips, can significantly reduce air pollution. Private vehicles are the largest contributor to household carbon emissions. Sixty percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively. Because of this, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips.

A four-mile walking trip keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.

Economic Benefits

Walking is by far the cheapest way to get around. Car ownership and operation is expensive. According to 2004 data from AAA and US Census Bureau, ownership of one motor vehicle accounts for more than 18 percent of a typical household's income. The cost of operating a sedan for one year is almost $8,000. The cost of operating a bicycle for a year is only $120. Walking is free! By walking more, you spend less on transportation, and you'll have more money to save or spend on other things.


Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (CDC)

How Much Physical Activity Do I Need?

How much physical activity do you need? Many people are pleasantly surprised to find out they don't need as much physical activity as they think. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans gives you the freedom to reach your physical activity goals through different types and amounts of activities each week.


The guidelines provide three flexible options:

Option One
Accumulate at least:

  • Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week and
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Option Two
Accumulate at least:

  • One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., jogging or running) every week and
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Option Three
Accumulate at least:

  • An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Have it your way

Choose your activity: You have countless options as to what type of aerobic activity you do. Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving—it's not just traditional exercise. Yard work, dancing, walking or cycling to meetings, and other lifestyle activities count towards your weekly total.

Crunched for time

Spread your activity out: you also have the option to break your activity up into smaller chunks throughout the day. Even bouts as short as ten minutes are enough to reap health benefits.

It's easier than you think

You can meet the aerobic activity goal simply by taking a 10-minute brisk walk, three times a day, five days a week. This will give you a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

Don't forget those muscles

Muscle strengthening activity is a new addition to the activity guidelines. Again, this does not require much time, nor do you need to go to the gym. Completing a set of 8 – 12 repetitions of an exercise takes a minute or two. Completing one set of exercises for each of the major muscle groups need not take more than 15 – 30 minutes.

These are the minimum guidelines: for more benefits, you can increase your activity beyond these standards.

Want to learn more?

Visit www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html.

What's moderate intensity exercise?

Most people are aware of the current physical activity guidelines, but many are still confused about what moderate intensity physical activity is. Moderate intensity can be defined in absolute or relative terms. Understanding absolute intensity is simpler, so let's start with that.

Absolute moderate intensity has been defined by public health experts as any activity that expends 3.5 to 7 calories per minute. A classic example of moderate physical activity is walking at a 15 – 20 minute mile pace. Other examples of moderate intensity activities are:

  • Brisk walking
  • Doing water aerobics
  • Bicycling at 5 to 9 mph on level terrain, or with few hills; or stationary bicycling using moderate effort
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Yoga
  • Golf, wheeling, or carrying clubs
  • Playing frisbee
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Pushing a lawn mower
  • General gardening, such as raking the lawn, bagging grass, digging, hoeing, or weeding while standing or bending
  • Shoveling light snow
  • Actively playing with children

Many of these activities are not what we normally think of as exercise. This is great news because you can accumulate your recommended moderate activity by doing housework, gardening, recreating, or other lifestyle physical activities.

Of course, people's fitness levels vary. An easy stroll in the park may raise one person's heart rate enough to be considered moderate intensity. For another person the same stroll may not be considered moderate intensity because it does not raise their heart rate enough. That's where relative intensity comes in. Your heart rate will increase and you may break a sweat when exercising at moderate intensity. A simple way of determining whether you are exercising at a moderate level is the talk test. This test is quite easy. If you are doing moderate intensity activity, you will be able to talk but not be able to sing.

Using relative intensity as a guideline is helpful for those who are new to physical activity and who may not be able to sustain an activity at the absolute moderate intensity. You can start at whatever intensity is moderate for you using the talk test and increase intensity as your fitness levels improve.


For more information about physical activity intensity, check out these sites:
www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/PA_Intensity_table_2_1.pdf