Evaluating Your Initial Walking Endurance

Your endurance, stamina, or aerobic fitness can be gauged on a bike, stair climber, or treadmill. The best, most accurate way to assess this fitness parameter is with a test that most closely mirrors your primary activity, so as a walker, you should take an evaluation specifically designed for walkers.

As a walker, you can test yourself on a bike or by some means other than walking. There's a certain amount of crossover of aerobic benefits from one type of aerobic activity to another, but you may not do as well on a bike test if your main workout consists of walking.

To do this evaluation, you need a precisely measured 1-mile route that is as flat as possible. You can measure a course around your neighborhood by driving the distance in your car or, better yet, go to a track: The standard running track is a measured 1/4 mile around. If you choose to do this test on a track, go during a time when it's not too crowded and use the inside lane. Here's how to do the test:

1. Warm up with 5 minutes of easy walking.

2. Perform a few minutes of stretching and limbering up exercises.

3. Grab your stopwatch and start your timer.

4. Walk 1 mile (four times around the track) at a brisk, steady pace.

You should feel like you're pushing yourself reasonably hard but not so hard that you're unable to finish the mile. (If you can't complete the mile, that's okay. The fact that you can't tells you a lot about your fitness starting point.)

5. When you reach 1 mile, stop your timer, and cool down for 5 minutes or so by walking at a slow, easy pace.

You can follow this cool-down walk with an easy stretch.

Compare your walking time with the results chart below.

Fitness Level

Men

Women

Below average

Couldn't finish or finished in 15 minutes, 38 seconds or longer

Couldn't finish or finished in 16 minutes, 40 seconds or longer

Average

Between 12 minutes, 42 seconds and 15 minutes, 37 seconds

Between 13 minutes, 42 seconds and 16 minutes, 39 seconds

Above average

Less than 12 minutes, 42 seconds

Less than 13 minutes,42 seconds

Using your results

Your results are the foundation of your walking program.

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You shouldn't just test yourself once and leave it at that either. Retest yourself every three months or so and compare the results to your previous test. There is nothing more motivating than seeing how far you've come since the beginning. If you don't want to do each and every test over again, just do the ones with the results that motivate you. Don't retest yourself more often than every three months because the body typically doesn't make changes that quickly.

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