Walking Safety Tips

If you are new to exercise, here are some important health and safety tips so you can start your walking program off on the right foot.
  • Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. He or she may require that you have a physical exam or give you special instructions based on your medical history.
  • Don't overdo it, especially if you are a beginner. Let your body adjust to the new activity, gradually increasing the duration and frequency of your workouts.
  • Wear appropriate shoes. Not every shoe offers the stability and cushioning you need to walk.
  • For the first few weeks, do not push too hard. Your breathing should be elevated, but you should not be gasping for air. Use the Talk Test to know if you're walking at the right intensity level: If you cannot answer a question, you are walking too fast. If you can have a full conversation, you are walking too slowly.
  • Walking shouldn't hurt. If you experience any kind of muscle, joint, chest or head pain, see your family physician right away.
  • Wear a watch so you can monitor the time spent walking. Set small goals to gradually increase the amount of time you walk each week. You can also wear a pedometer to keep track of distance and steps, which can be a big motivator to keep going! For more information about choosing and using a pedometer, click here.
Outdoor Walking Safety Tips
Walking outside is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and get a workout at the same time! Before you lace up those sneakers, here are some important safety tips you’ll want to consider if you head outdoors to walk.
  • Find a buddy. Walking with someone can be a great motivator and make the time more enjoyable. But more importantly, there is always safety in numbers. If you walk alone, make sure you tell someone your route and the time you expect to return.
  • Dress to be seen. If you will be outside early morning or later evening, wear light colored clothing or reflectors. A lot of workout attire has reflective materials built in, such pants or jackets with reflective strips, walking shoes with reflective material on the heel, or reflective belts (available at most sporting goods stores). All of these will help you be more visible to oncoming traffic. Also try to walk on well-lit streets as much as possible.
  • Walk facing the traffic. Especially if there are no sidewalks or pathways on your route, the rules of the road say you should walk against the traffic. This way, you can see the traffic coming and be aware of any potential danger coming toward you.
  • Vary your route. This is for safety as well as enjoyment. It is much more interesting to experience different surroundings from time to time. This also prevents anyone else from memorizing your whereabouts or routine.
  • Beware of drivers. Do not assume that drivers know when pedestrians have the right of way. Walk with awareness and caution, assuming that no drivers see you. Be especially cautious of driveways—most drivers are watching for oncoming cars, not walkers.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for ice, water, bike riders, cracks in the pavement, or any other hazards in your path. It can be very easy to trip and fall without warning, which can be especially dangerous if you are alone.
In addition to these safety tips, there are a few things that every walker should bring for their outdoor walk, as well as a few things that you can leave at home.

What to Bring It is a good idea to carry pepper spray and cell phone (or alarm) in case you get into trouble. It can also be helpful to carry a walking stick (in case you need to fend off an unleashed dog) or umbrella (in case of sudden rain). If you have a dog, bring it along for companionship and safety! Always have your I.D. with you in the event that you become injured or disabled.

What NOT to Bring Do not wear any jewelry that might draw someone’s attention. Do not wear headphones—they can prevent you from hearing oncoming traffic or someone coming up behind you. You should always be aware of what is happening in your environment.

By following these easy tips, you’ll make your walking experience as safe and enjoyable as possible!
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Member Comments

I have a Fitbit that keeps track of how long I walk and I set it up for 10,000 steps a day, I do notice things around me like cars and try to avoid dogs who are loose. Today I walked across 2 bridges and tried not to look down at the water or the rocks below. Report
Great tips to remember and incorporation when walking. Report
I only walk around my neighborhood, and I wear headphones - only in one ear. Listening to music helps to keep the pace. Keep on Tracking! Report
Useful tips Report
thanks Report
Thanks Report
Thank you Report
I feel lucky to stand at all, let alone walk. Today I'm canning jam and counting that as walking because it'll be hours of it! Report
I do not walk very well. Have to be careful of falling. I will continue to march in place at home and call it my walking program. Don't know if anyone else has this problem. Report
thank you Report
I've said it before, NEVER, EVER, EVER trust a car that is backing up. The driver may not see you. It's better to be safe than injured or dead. Report
I’m too trusting. Always have my phone but don’t think the area is dangerous enough to need pepper spray. Report
Thank you! Report
great article Report
Thank You for the good tips............. Report

About The Author

Jen Mueller
Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach and medical exercise specialist, with additional certifications in behavior change, functional training and senior fitness. She is also a RRCA-certified running coach. See all of Jen's articles.