If you want to get your legs moving more, you don’t have to charge headlong into marathon training. Walking more provides a multitude of benefits on its own, and can set you on a path toward more demanding activities in the future. How much, how fast, and how often should you walk? How long does it take to walk a mile? Here’s what the experts say.
What is the average time it takes to walk a mile?
The average time to walk a mile can vary, depending on factors like your age, skill level, and general health.
“A beginner can typically walk a mile in 15 to 20 minutes, or three to four miles an hour,” says Bethany Rutledge, a USA Triathlon-certified coach and author of Courage to Tri.
According to a 2011 study that looked at the average walking speed across different age groups, men and women in their 30s and 40s tend to walk slightly faster than those in their 20s, and then walking speed slows very slightly with each subsequent decade. But generally, walking speed doesn’t significantly slow down until our 60s.
How much does pace affect time?
Is there a universal standard for a fast, moderate, or slow pace? Actually, yes. Fitness experts tend to use these general guidelines.
Fast: 11 minutes per mile
Moderate: 15 minutes per mile
Easy: 20 minutes per mile
Going by that metric, this is about how long it takes to walk the following common distances at a moderate pace:
Mile: 5,280 feet / 15 to 20 minutes
Kilometer: 0.62 miles or 3,281.5 feet / 10 to 12 minutes
3K: 3 kilometers, 1.85 miles or 9,842.5 feet / 30 to 37 minutes
5K: 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles / 1 hour
10K: 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles / 2 hours
Half Marathon: 13.1 miles / 4 to 4.5 hours
Marathon: 26.2 miles / 6.5 to 8 hours
Tracking steps when walking a mile
In 2018, The British Journal of Sports Medicine also tracked the steps per minute of people walking at various speeds and concluded the following:
People walking at a vigorous pace took 130 steps per minute or more.
People walking at a brisk pace took 100 to 119 steps per minute
People walking at a medium pace took 80 to 99 steps per minute
People walking at a slow pace took 60 to 79 steps per minute.
The researchers also defined 100 steps per minute as “moderate-intensity exercise.”
Using a fitness tracker — like Apple Watch or Fitbit — can help you gauge your progress and stay motivated. Most of these wearable devices track distance covered, calories burned, and steps taken in a day — or over the course of a workout.
“As you improve your cardiovascular fitness and get in better shape, your time to complete a mile will fall,” says Rutledge. “In that case, you might want to consider adding on distance so your workout can remain in the 20-to-30-minute range.”
How can I train to walk longer distances?
The key is to be consistent with your walking routine, and gradually add to it.
“As a beginner, it helps to focus on frequency initially,” says Rutledge. “Frequency is achieved by first gradually stringing a number of short and easy walks together over many weeks, then slowly adding time, and then finally adding in intensity where appropriate.” For example, try a 20-minute walk the first week. The next week, aim for 25 minutes, and the next week, go for 30.
Can you lose weight by walking a mile a day?
That depends on your activity level and diet.
“Combining exercise with diet creates a calorie deficit, which results in weight loss,” says Caleb Backe, a New Jersey-based certified personal trainer and health expert with Maple Holistics. “This means that while a mile can be enough to result in weight loss, it’s not the only factor to take into consideration.”
The key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. According to the CDC, walking at a moderate pace (3.5mph) will enable a 154-pound person to burn about 280 calories per hour, while walking at a vigorous pace (4.5mph) will allow them to burn approximately 460 calories an hour.
That’s not bad — three hours a week, and you’ve burned close to 1,500 calories. But that won’t translate to weight loss if you follow your first walk with a visit to Starbucks for a sugary frozen drink buried in whipped cream, and then hit the drive-through a couple times that week after work. You have to watch what you’re putting in just as much as what you’re burning off.
Whether or not you’re walking to lose weight, walking has been shown to have a host of other benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, a lower risk of diabetes and stroke, improved mood, stronger bones, and better balance. And remember: Any amount of exercise is better than none.
“According to the recent government guidelines, even just 10 minutes of movement daily can optimize your health,” says Backe. “If you’re walking a brisk mile, it can take you as little as 15 minutes, which means that you’re already getting more than minimum movement for optimal health.”
Read more expert advice on how to lose weight by walking here.