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The Benefits, Side Effects & 10 Tips for Long-Distance Walking

Step out the door and get ready to explore a world of adventure where every journey leads to something new. Long-distance walking is an exhilarating experience that allows us to traverse vast landscapes and uncover hidden gems.

In addition to building physical strength and confidence, long-distance walking has many health benefits and can even reduce the risks of chronic illnesses. But just like any activity, there can be some downsides; aches, fatigue and injuries are among them.

Here we will explore,

  • The benefits and drawbacks of long-distance walking
  • 10 tips for walking a long distance
  • Long-distance walking training guide

What Qualifies as Long-Distance Walking?

There is no strict definition of what constitutes a long distance walk, but generally, it refers to walking for an extended period of time or distance, typically greater than what would be considered a normal walk. Here are some key things to know about long distance walking:

  • Distance – What constitutes a “long distance” walk can vary but is generally considered to be anything over 10-20 kilometres (6-12 miles). Some long distance walks can stretch to over 100 kilometers (62 miles). Marathon or ultrarunning walkers may consider longer distances to be “long distance.”
  • Duration – Long-distance walks typically take several hours to complete, often 2-6 hours or more, depending on the distance, terrain, and pace. This means walking for a significantly longer period of time than a normal walk.

Ultimately, the definition of long-distance walking varies from person to person based on their typical walking routine and personal endurance.

What Are the Benefits of Long-Distance Walking?

Long-distance walking provides greater physical and mental health benefits compared to short walks. While shorter walks improve health, the further you walk, the more calories burned and the greater the cardiovascular boost. Long walks reduce stress, improve mood and boost self-esteem as walkers accomplish meaningful distances.

Here are the benefits of long-distance walking in list form:

1. Physical fitness

  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Increases muscle strength and flexibility
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes

2. Weight management

  • Burns calories which can aid with weight loss or maintenance

3. Mental health benefits

  • Improves mood
  • Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
  • Exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D and serotonin levels

4. Cognitive benefits

  • Improves memory and concentration
  • May delay cognitive decline
  • Increases blood flow to the brain

5. Social interaction

  • Group walks provide socializing and a sense of community
  • Long-distance hiking trails have a social element

6. Exposure to nature and scenic environment

  • Allows enjoyment of natural surroundings
  • Being outdoors has additional health benefits

7. Sense of accomplishment

  • Completing long walks gives a feeling of achievement
  • Reaching milestones provides motivation

Side effect (Risk) of long-distance walking

Here are the potential side effects of long-distance walking in list form:

1. Muscle soreness and fatigue

  • Walking long distances can cause muscle fatigue, cramping and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
  • This is especially true if you’re not used to that level of activity.

2. Foot pain

  • Conditions like plantar fasciitis, blisters and toenail issues can flare up from the repetitive impact.
  • Proper footwear and socks are essential to prevent foot pain.

3. Chafing and blisters

  • Friction between skin and clothing can cause irritation, redness and blisters.
  • Use body glide or antibiotic ointment to reduce friction.

4. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance

  • Failure to replace fluids and electrolytes like sodium and potassium
  • Can cause headaches, nausea, cramps and fatigue
  • Drink water regularly and consider sports drinks

5. Increased hunger and fatigue

  • The high-calorie burn from long walks can leave you feeling hungry and tired
  • Make sure to fuel your body with enough calories during and after walks

6. Weakened immune system

  • Physical stress can potentially suppress your immune function
  • The increasing risk of colds and infections
  • Staying hydrated and eating well can help combat this

7. Overuse injuries

  • Conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures and shin splints
  • Can develop from overtraining or increasing mileage too fast
  • Build up the distance gradually to avoid injuries

Note: Most side effects are temporary and avoidable with proper preparation, nutrition, and training. Some persistence and listening to your body’s cues are also important.

10 Tips for Walking A Long Distance

Long-distance Walking Tips

1. Building Up Gradually is Crucial to Success

If you’re new to long walks, One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a long-distance walk is to build up your training gradually. Start with short 2-3 mile walks at a comfortable pace and work your way up over 6-12 weeks before your long-distance walk.

Aim to increase the distance by 0.5 to 1 mile for every walk. Walk 3-5 times weekly with at least one full rest day in between. Add inclines to mimic the terrain you’ll face as you increase your distances. Gradually increase the weight you carry in your pack to get used to the load you’ll need to carry supplies. Listen to your body and only increase your training as you feel ready. This strategy helps your body adapt to the increased physical demand, reducing the risk of injury.

2. Bring the Right Gear

A) Wear Comfortable, Broken-in Shoes

Proper footwear is crucial for comfort and injury prevention. Choose shoes specifically designed for walking, with good arch support, cushioning, and a flexible sole.

Ensure your shoes are broken in before setting out on a long walk – new shoes can cause blisters fast. Bring an extra pair in case one gets soaked.

B) Wear Proper Socks

Moisture-wicking synthetic or wool socks can prevent blisters that sideline you. Change your socks mid-walk to keep your feet dry. Carry extra socks in case your feet get sweaty.

Avoid cotton socks, which can retain moisture and cause discomfort.

C) Dress in Layers

Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your clothing to the weather and your body temperature. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating middle layer in cold weather, and top with a waterproof outer layer if needed.

D) Pack Essentials

The basics for any long distance hike include comfortable clothes in moisture-wicking layers, rain gear, sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, water bottles, high-energy snacks, a map, a compass, first aid kit, any necessary medications, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, flashlight, cash and forms of identification. Consider a daypack to distribute weight evenly between shoulders.

Walking poles can reduce pressure on your joints and provide stability on uneven terrain.

3. Prioritize Fueling and Hydration During Your Walk

Do not neglect fueling and hydration while walking long distances. Aim to consume 200-300 calories per hour while walking with a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Drink water regularly; aim for 2-4 litres in a full day of walking. Carry a hydration pack or water bottle and refill when possible.

Watch for signs of dehydration like dark urine, fatigue, headaches and dizziness. Carry electrolyte replacement drinks to replenish lost minerals. Snack every 45 to 90 minutes on high-fibre and high-protein foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and nut butters. Avoid excessive sugar and caffeine, which can cause crashes and dehydration.

Staying properly fueled and hydrated will give you the energy to complete the distance.

4. Pace Yourself Properly

Don’t start too fast! Aim for 4-5 miles per hour unless the terrain is level. Walking too fast will exhaust you prematurely. Take walk-run or hike-walk breaks if overtaking a slow group. Monitor your breathing to avoid huffing and puffing, which can cause injuries. Adjust your pace uphill and downhill to find a consistent speed that allows you to converse while walking. Take walking poles if they help you maintain form while powering over hills.

5. Foot Position and Posture Help Endurance

Land on your heel with each step, then roll through your foot until lifting your toes. Taking shorter, faster steps helps conserve energy. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and head level. Avoid hunching over, which strains your back.

6. Take Frequent Breaks

Listen to your body and rest when fatigued. Your walking form typically deteriorates faster than your energy levels, leading to injury risk. Sit for 10-15 minutes every 45-90 minutes and elevate your feet. Stretch calves, quads and hamstrings to avoid strains. Take longer meal breaks every 3-4 hours to nap if needed. Microbreaks refuel you physically and mentally to continue.

7. Track Your Progress with Technology and Partner Up

Using a pedometer or walking app can track your distance and pace, providing motivation and data about your progress. Listening to podcasts or music during your walk makes the time pass faster and can improve your mood. Consider walking with a partner or group for safety, motivation and having someone to talk to along the route. A companion can also assist if any issues arise.

8. Plan Your Route Carefully

Plan your route to avoid highways and major roads if possible. Choose trails, rail trails, canal paths, rural roads, and sidewalks for safer walking. Know where facilities, emergency services, and potential bailout options exist along the way. Have a backup plan in case of fatigue, injury, or inclement weather.

Carry cash, proper identification, and insurance cards. Leave your route with someone responsible in case you don’t check in at an expected time. Long walks involve elements of adventure, so prepare for them intelligently.

9. Understand the Weather

Check the weather forecast before you set out. If you’re walking for several hours, the weather can change drastically during your walk. Prepare for these changes to stay comfortable and safe.

10. The Little Things Add Up to Success (750 words)

Many smaller tips can help make your long walk more comfortable and enjoyable. Choose trail runners or sports sandals as a lightweight alternative to hiking boots. Liner socks inside moisture-wicking outer socks absorb sweat and cushion your feet.

Bring sunscreen, lip balm and hand cream to protect exposed skin. Carry extra snacks like granola bars, nuts, dried fruit and Fig Newtons. Practice using poles if you plan to bring them.

Consider recording audio notes or photos during your walk to capture the experience. Posting updates on social media can keep friends and family aware of your progress.

Having a first aid kit, emergency whistle , and offline map are good precautions. 

Plantar fasciitis insoles, knee braces and compression sleeves can help with aches and pains. A baseball cap offers sun and bug protection. Stretching and foam rolling after daily walks prepares your muscles for the long one ahead.

Focusing on all the small but helpful details will maximize comfort and success. With proper training, planning, nutrition, gear and technique, you’ll be set to crush your long-distance walking goal!

Tips for Long-Distance Walking Training: Cross Training and Strength Training

Long-distance walking requires not only endurance but also strength and flexibility. To improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury, you should incorporate cross-training and strength training into your exercise routine. Here’s how to do it.

Cross Training

Cross-training involves mixing different types of exercises within your training regimen. It’s a great way to boost overall fitness while reducing the risk of overuse injuries, as it allows different muscle groups to recover while others work.

1. Choose Complementary Activities

Choose activities that will enhance your walking performance and target different muscle groups. Cycling, for example, is a non-impact exercise that can build your leg strength and cardio fitness. Swimming works your whole body and increases your lung capacity, while yoga can improve your balance and flexibility.

2. Balance Your Training

Ensure your cross-training complements your walking regimen instead of exhausting you. If you’re walking long distances several times a week, opt for lower-impact cross-training activities. The goal is to enhance your fitness and recovery, not hinder your progress.

3. Vary Your Routine

Varying your routine can keep your workouts interesting and prevent plateaus. It also ensures that you’re working different muscle groups and aspects of your fitness, including strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Strength Training

Strength training is another key component of long-distance walking training. Strong muscles are more efficient, help maintain proper form, and can withstand longer periods of physical activity.

1. Focus on Key Muscles

While all-around strength is beneficial, focus particularly on the muscles you use most while walking. This includes your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core. Exercises like squats, lunges, calf raises, and planks are all effective.

2. Don’t Neglect Your Upper Body

Although walking primarily targets your lower body, don’t neglect your upper body. A strong back and shoulders will help maintain good posture during your walks, while strong arms can add power to your stride.

3. Opt for Functional Movements

Functional movements are exercises that mimic the movements you use in your daily life or sport. For walkers, this can include exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, improving coordination, balance, and strength.

4. Include Resistance and Flexibility Training

Resistance training using weights, resistance bands, or your body weight can help build strength. Flexibility training, such as stretching and yoga, can improve your range of motion, reduce muscle tension, and prevent injuries.

5. Rest and Recover

Strength training causes tiny tears in your muscles, which heal and make your muscles stronger. Ensure you’re giving your body time to rest and recover. This usually means not doing strength training on consecutive days.

In conclusion, cross-training and strength training can significantly improve your long-distance walking performance. They can help you walk farther and faster, reduce your fatigue, and lower your risk of injury. By incorporating these strategies into your training routine, you can become a more proficient and resilient long-distance walker.


Walking longer distances is all about taking small steps. Through the right motivation, proper preparation, and smart strategies, you can move beyond your own personal limits and enjoy a rewarding journey. It’s not about the destination but rather the transformation within – of greater strength, health, and resilience. So challenge yourself to take that first step – and get ready to walk further than you ever expected.

Written by

Jennifer Lewis