Walking is an often under-appreciated activity. While people often pay more attention to more strenuous forms of exercise, walking has tons of benefits for the mind and body, and it’s affordable, accessible, and enjoyable.
Whether you are planning your next hike or thinking of taking up walking as an exercise routine, you may be wondering how far a person can walk in a day. Let’s take a closer look and find out.
How Far Can an Average Person Walk in a Day?
An average American who is simply going about their daily lives takes 3,000-4,000 steps every day, so most people walk about two miles every day without even thinking about it. Some jobs are more active than others, with mail carriers walking an average of more than 7.5 miles every day!
An average person, who is walking in their free time rather than at work, walks at a pace of just over 3 miles per hour. By simple math, you might conclude that the average person, walking at a comfortable pace, might walk as many as 25 miles in a day.
However, that isn’t true in practice. In reality, the average, untrained person, walking over long distances, encounters difficulties that we wouldn’t expect by simply doing the math. In real life, the walking shoes that may be comfortable for walks of 5-6 miles can become uncomfortable over long distances. An average, untrained person might develop sore feet, sort legs, or even blisters that may make long walks painful or impossible.
If you’re wondering how far a person can walk in a day, the answer is that it really depends on the person. Their walking shoes, level of fitness, and experience in walking all make a huge difference, as do other factors like their speed, height and stride length, terrain, and even the weather.
How Far do Endurance Walkers Walk in a Day?
People who regularly practice distance walking generally walk for 5-6 miles three or four days a week, and then aim for a 20 mile walk in one day on the weekend.
There are a number of long distance walking events, which typically have walkers complete 30 miles in less than 10 hours. The Long Distance Walking Association hosts annual events that challenge walkers to complete 62 miles in 26 hours, and their flagship event covers 100 miles in 48 hours.
World-Record Walking Distances
For reference, here are some of the most incredible distance walking facts and feats:
- Steve Newman is the first person to walk around the world solo, crossing 15,000 miles and 20 countries in four years
- Ffyona Campbell walked 20,000 miles, crossing Australia, America, Europe, and Africa over the course of 11 years. She holds the record for the fastest crossing of Australia on foot, completing 3,200 miles in only 95 days
- George Meegan holds the record for the longest unbroken walk, walking continuously for 2,435 days between 1977 and 1983. He walked from Tierra Del Fuego to northern Alaska
- The longest hiking trail in the world is the Trans Canada Trail, at nearly 15,000 miles long
- The origin of 10,000 steps a day comes from the marketing slogan of a Japanese company selling their new step-counter in 1965. While the slogan caught on, it isn’t based in research or science, and was a fairly arbitrary number.
How to Walk for Health and Exercise
If you want to take up walking for health and exercise, and build up distance over time, here are some things to keep in mind:
Stretching is an important first step before any workout. It loosens and lengthens muscles, priming them for activity. Stretched muscles give you a greater range of motion and more energy and responsiveness from the very beginning of your workout.
Like stretching, warming up is important before any exercise. Warming up gently increases your heart and breathing rate, delivering more oxygen to your muscles. Warm muscles give you more power, and protects you from strain, stress, and injury.
Monitor Your Heart Rate
Because walking is not usually an intense cardio activity, many people think that they don’t need to monitor their heart rate. They think that, because they are unlikely to max their heart rate. But it’s still important to monitor your heart rate when walking, because there is an increased chance that you will be walking too slowly, and miss your optimal heart rate.
It can take some concentration to maintain a brisk pace while walking, because we naturally walk at a slower pace. If we don’t pay attention and monitor our heart rate, it’s easy to slip into a more comfortable pace with less cardio benefits.
Walking is a great workout for interval training, because it is so easy to simply add 60-90 seconds of increased intensity or cross-training activity. Adding intervals improves your overall fitness and cardio health, while allowing you to build more stamina, burn more calories, and get more results from every walk. Add in short intervals of jogging or running, add short sets of squats or lunges, or turn and walk or jog backward for better workout results.
If you are walking for distance, there’s no better way to build endurance than by walking. However, consider adding in 1-2 days a week of cross-training other activities to improve your overall fitness and strengthen muscles that are less used when walking.
For distance walkers, adding a day or two a week of workouts designed to increase core strength and flexibility, like yoga or Pilates, is a great way to work and strengthen supporting and stabilizing muscles that you need for extreme endurance. Or consider swimming once or twice a week, for a great, no-impact cardio workout that supports and conditions the knees, ankles, and hips.
For more tips on how to start a walking program, read our guide here.
How To Build A Distance Walking Regimen
Long distance walking is a great way to get healthy and build stamina, and can be easier on the body than higher-impact activities like running or jogging. But, as with any exercise regimen, it’s best to start slow and work your way up to longer distances. Here is how to start training for distance walking:
Start Walking For Exercise
The CDC recommends walking for about 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This is a great way to begin, because it helps to train your feet and legs, test out the best walking shoes for you, and avoid injury or blisters.
Track Your Walks
After you have developed a walking habit, it’s a good idea to start using a fitness meter or app to track your walking. You will want to keep track of both distance and time, as well as measuring your heart rate for exertion.
Reach A Baseline
You should be able to walk 4 miles at a time, 3 or more days a week, with your heart rate at 65-80% of your heart rate maximum.
Increase Your Distance
After at least 3 months of regular walking, you can begin training for increased distances. Work your way up to walking 15 miles a week.
Sample training regimen for distance walking:
- Mondays: Rest day
- Tuesdays and Thursdays: Walk at least 4 miles. Advanced walkers can add increased intensity intervals
- Wednesdays: Walk at least 4 miles. Practice your form
- Fridays: Cross-training on other cardio activities for at least 1 hour
- Saturdays: Endurance walking. If your ultimate goal is to walk a marathon distance of 26 miles, build up to 80% of that distance (or 21 miles)
- Sundays: Recovery day. Comfortable walking or cross training for 30 minutes
The answer to how far a person can walk in a day varies by individual, fitness level, and ultimate goal. The truth is, if you want to know how far YOU can walk in a day, the sky is the limit!