There are numerous ways in which we could improve our walking capabilities or walking fitness. The more obvious tactics are to walk more often, walk for longer or a combination of both. All three of these strategies are excellent, and you may have already tried those approaches.

But let's discuss Intensity. Simply put, how hard is your body having to work to cope with the demands placed upon it. 

Tracking your heart rate through a smart device or heart rate monitor can track the intensity of your activity or exercise. The benefit of using such a device is that we can monitor our heart to see how hard we are working. 

Unless you have already pushed yourself before to a maximal or near-maximal limit to determine your maximum heart rate, we can just simply use an equation to determine our estimated maximum heart rate. Once we determine this we can calculate our target heart rate for our goal.


Firstly, we must calculate our estimated maximum heart rate:

220 - age = Estimated maximum heart rate in beats per minute (BPM)

For example, your age is 40 years old:

220-40 = 180bpm Maximum Heart Rate


Now we have determined our estimated maximum heart rate, we can now calculate how hard we need to work to suit our goal. As walking is not quite as intense as other activities, we will look at two heart rate ‘zones’ and why they may be useful.

50-60% - By working your heart rate between 50-60% of its maximum, it is considered to be fairly low intensity. Therefore aiming to train between 50-60% is beneficial as a beginner to start out with. This range is also useful as a recovery target after a more intense bout of exercise.

60-70% - Exercising between 60-70% of your maximum is more of a sustainable challenging range for walking and will increase your general endurance. Not only this but you will be in more of a fat-burning state and will probably notice the muscular endurance improve in your legs.


So, for the example of the 40 year old maximum heart rate being 180 bpm:

To find 50% it is 180 x 0.5 = 90bpm

To find 60% it is 180 x 0.6 = 108bpm

To find 70% it is 180 x 0.7 = 126bpm

50-60%  =  90-108 bpm

60-70%  = 108-126 bpm


Ideas to increase your Heart Rate


  • Whilst walking the dog, make a conscious effort to make it more of a brisk walk.
  • Could you change your route and include some small inclines or a hill?
  • Could you walk for an extra 5 minutes per day?

For every 1 km/h increase in walking pace, we can decrease the risk of suffering a stroke by 13%