If you’re just starting to walk – or someone looking to up their fitness game – you might be considering signing up for a 5k race.
While most entrants choose to run or run/walk the race, there are many who will walk the entire thing. If that’s your goal, or you want to simply walk a 5k on your own, we’re here to answer a common question:
How long does it take to walk a 5k?
In this article, we’ll go through all the details you need to know if this is a goal of yours!
How Long is a 5k?
5 kilometers is equivalent to 3.1 miles.
That’s 16,404 feet, or 12 ½ laps on a 1/4-mile track.
It’s one of the most common distances for newbies and casual runners and walkers. It’s just long enough to give you a great pump, but not take up your whole day! Most weekends (with pandemic restrictions the big qualifier), you can find an organized 5k somewhere nearby.
How Long Would It Take to Finish It by Walking?
Any discussion of paces and finishing times comes with many asterisks, because we are all different. The question is hard to answer broadly, as it really depends on the person, their pace, and whether or not they stop along the way to catch their breath. Even the weather can affect your time. But we can come up with general approximates.
Beginners can expect to walk a 5k in just over an hour. 60 to 70 minutes is a good time for those who are just starting out and need to take it easy until they’re used to walking that distance.
Slightly more experienced walkers should be able to walk the 5k in less than an hour – 50 to 60 minutes. Walkers who are advanced can do it in about 40 minutes. (In case you’re curious, the 5000m race walk world record is – and you might want to sit down for this – 18:05)
At this point, you can either graduate to run/walking, or you can continue to work on your walking. It’s totally up to you!
What Benefits Are There to Walking?
Walking has some super health benefits. Even if you’re walking at a slow pace, it’s far healthier for you than being stationary.
When you begin walking, you can expect to experience:
- An improved cardiovascular system
- Increased pulmonary fitness (lungs)
- Reduced risk of stroke and heart attack
- Improved blood pressure
- Easier management of high cholesterol
- Reduction in muscular pain and stiffness
- Weight loss (if done in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet)
Remember, all of these things take time to show themselves. You can’t walk for one week and expect to reap all of these benefits!
Consistency is key. It may take a few months of dedicated exercise before you begin to notice these effects, but we promise they’re happening!
Tips for a Walking Program
The best way to ensure that you keep up your consistency is to create your own walking program. It’s easier to stick to something if you know what you can expect every day!
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Begin with a 15-minute walk every day, at a pace that’s easy for you.
Once you’re used to this and feel that you can increase it, add an extra few minutes. Try 17 minute walks for a week, then go up to 20 minutes. Keep doing this until you can walk solidly for an hour. That’s when you’re ready to do a 5k!
Here are some tips to make it easier:
- Remember to warm up by stretching before every walk
- Try to keep your pace consistent as you walk
- Walk with a friend if you’re able to
- Try to choose a route that’s fairly flat and free from traffic
- Walk 3 to 5 days, and rest for a day
- Track your walks if you have a fitness tracker or smartwatch
- Once you can walk a full 5k, work on increasing your speed
- Be consistent!
Training Goals for Beginners
Having a goal to work towards helps keep you motivated, but it also gives you something tangible to aim for.
If your goal is to just be able to walk 5 kilometers in distance without considering time, then you know exactly what you need to work towards. If you’re able to walk the distance but you want to improve your time, then you know you need to work on your speed.
Here are some goals you may want to aim towards when you’re first beginning!
- Finish a 5k walk (regardless of time)
- Do a 5k walk without stopping to rest at all
- Improve your 5k time (by improving your speed)
- Feel energized instead of tired when finishing a 5k
- Improve your form (yes – walking needs good form, too!)
Further Safety Instructions
Don’t assume that walking is super easy and there’s no need to worry about safety! Safety is always important, and just taking a couple of measures can make your walks safer and more comfortable.
Don’t Forget to Warm-Up & Cool Down
It may sound silly to take the time to warm up for your walk. Most days when we get out of bed, cold muscles and all, we start walking around straight away!
But walking with a purpose is still exercise. You aren’t just walking around the house, or from the car to your desk. You’re training, making sure to walk with proper form, and doing so for health or exercise reasons.
Warming up is an important part of the exercise. Because you’re walking with purpose, most likely faster than usual, it’s a good idea to do some basic stretches to get the blood flowing before you set off.
Try to do some active stretching (also called dynamic stretching) for just 5 minutes, both at the beginning and at the end of your walk.
Cater to Your Fitness Level
If you’re a complete beginner, take it easy at first! Of course, progress is the goal; but the idea is to progress at a pace that suits you, that your body can handle, and that won’t cause injury or illness.
If you leap in too quickly, there’s a risk of injuring yourself as your body isn’t used to the amount of exercise you’re doing. Also, if you know that you have weak ankles, you’ll need to take more care, for example.
Going for your daily walk in your work clothes may not be a comfortable experience. If you’re walking in discomfort, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to keep it up for too long.
Wear comfy, breathable clothing. Also, make sure you’re wearing the right kind of shoes! If you tend to roll your feet inwards when you walk, you may need a stability shoe. If you don’t, a neutral shoe will do.
Wearing high-quality running socks will also help to reduce your chance of getting blisters. Consider wearing sunglasses if you are sensitive to bright light. Sunscreen and a comfortable hat will also help keep you safe from the heat.
If you live somewhere with up-and-down weather, it may be helpful to check the weather forecast before you go out for your walk. That way, you know if you may need a waterproof layer or a warmer jacket.
Although you most likely won’t sweat as much walking as you would running, it’s still easier to dehydrate than you think! If you’re going to be out walking for an hour or so, it’s a good idea to take water with you so you can sip it along the way.
You can have a drink of water before you leave for your walk, but there’s always the chance that you might find yourself needing the bathroom halfway through your walk, which could make it rather uncomfortable!
No, you don’t need to go out and get yourself a firearm! But it’s a great idea to carry a self-defense product like pepper spray, a walking stick, or an alarm button with you.
Even if you’re walking in a familiar area in light, daytime conditions, safety can never be understated. You may never need to use your pepper spray (and we hope that you don’t!) but rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
How to Stay Motivated
Motivation can sometimes be hard to find, especially if you’ve been walking consistently for a few weeks or months and you haven’t taken a break!
Here are some easy ways to stay motivated when your walking becomes a bit of a bore.
- Choose different walking routes
- Walk your usual route backward
- Walk with a friend or family member
- Vary the times of day that you walk
- Join a club of like-minded people
- Join communities like Facebook groups
- Set small daily goals (like counting how many dogs you see on your walk!)
- Reward yourself (in healthy ways)
- Take a short break (a day or two or three)
Walking is something we do every day. But when you’re getting into a walking program as exercise, it’s still a good idea to have a medical checkup before starting. Mention to your doctor that you’re beginning a walking program and get their advice, especially if you’re being treated for medical conditions.
It’s particularly important to speak to your doctor before beginning if you’re overweight, haven’t done any exercise in a long time, have medical conditions, or are over 40 years of age.