Up your mileage—and enjoyment—with these pro walking tips.

By Jenna Autuori

To access our walking programs for every fitness level, click here.

For motivation-boosting phone apps, click here.

Family Circle has teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America, a DC-based nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood obesity, to get everyone moving more in 2017. After all, PHA is just as committed as we are to supporting families and children in making healthy happen. Get on board by joining our Move to Improve initiative. Whenever you head out for a walk (or run or bike ride), log your journey with the Charity Miles app (charitymiles.org/movetoimprove). And don’t forget to get the kids to join you! We’re aiming for 20.17 million miles of movement in 2017. Help us get there!

Q: Do I really need to log 10,000 steps every day?

A: While 10K is a solid baseline, it’s not a rule to live by. “If you find that walking even 4,000 steps—about 2 miles—is a lot at the moment, 10,000 might be too high of a starting goal,” says Myna Majors, running coach with NYRR Striders, a New York Road Runners walking program. Instead, exercise three to five days a week for 30 minutes a day—no matter how many steps you take.

Q: I’m walking daily but not losing weight—why?

A: Here’s our question for you: Have you taken a good, hard look at your diet? “Eating right accounts for 80% of the weight loss process and working out the other 20%, but most people go about it the opposite way,” says nutritionist Rovenia Brock, PhD, author of Lose Your Final 15. To drop a pound a week you’d have to jog on a treadmill for one hour a day, seven days a week. “But you could save the same 3,500 calories just by cutting portions or leaving food on your plate,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to cut calories by slashing 100—or more—at each meal and every snack.”

Q: My knees are bad. Is walking okay for getting in shape?

A: Absolutely—in fact, it’s good for your knees. (So cross that excuse off your list!) “Walking builds up your muscles, helping take pressure off your joints,” says Angel Rodriguez, a group fitness instructor at 24 Hour Fitness in New York City. Try walking with a mix of stretching and strength training on non-cardio days. Start out on softer terrain (like grass or a cushioned track) instead of hard surfaces—and avoid hills.

Q: Any tips for finding a local walking group?

A: Our top five picks: Apps like Nextdoor and NavaFit locate people to work out with, and websites such as WellSquad, meetup.com and Facebook connect you with people and groups in your community.

Q: What are some ideas for including my kids in my workout?

A: Think outside the stroller—pulling toddlers in a wagon means added weight so you’ll get more of a workout, and kids on scooters will force you to pick up your pace, says Sara Haley, creator of the pre- and post-natal workout series Expecting More. “If your kids are old enough to walk alongside you, help the time pass more quickly by playing Simon says,” Haley suggests. Throw in challenges like walking lunges, jumping jacks, high knees or walking backward whenever your child gives you the command and vice versa. “Showing your kids from a young age that exercise can also be fun is the best gift you can give them,” says Haley, who is a mom of two (with a third on the way!).

Q: I love to walk with my dog, but she often pulls. Is there another way to work her into my routine? 

A: Dogs are like toddlers: They have to release all that energy before they’re able to calm down and comply. So if you don’t want your right arm to be pulled out like a Slinky, dedicate the first few minutes of your walk to your dog’s needs—letting her sniff around, mark her territory, chase a squirrel. After that she’ll be a little tired and stay by your side. Tina Klein, MPA, a run coach coordinator at Life Time Athletic in Atlanta, swears by this approach—and buying the right leash, like a hands-free style from Ruffwear or Stunt Puppy, so you can maintain good form.

Q: Should I be drinking water throughout my walk?

A: Drink at least 5 to 10 ounces 30 minutes prior to your stroll. If you walk for more than 60 minutes, be sure to sip 4 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes after the one-hour mark.

Still got questions? We’ve got answers! Email us at health@familycircle.com and let us know what you’re wondering about walking.