Exactly How to Become a Runner—Even If You’ve Never Exercised Before

This article was written by Jennifer Van Allen, Bart Yasso and Amby Burfoot and provided by our partners at Rodale Wellness.

The best way to start running is to just get up and go, right? Not so fast. If you haven’t been exercising on a regular basis—30 minutes a day, five times a week for at least six weeks—walking at a moderate intensity is the best first step you can take.

“If you haven’t been exercising for a while, I wouldn’t recommend starting with running,” says Steven N. Blair, professor of exercise science and epidemiology and biostatistics at the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina. “First you have to get into the regular habit of exercising.”

This will help you develop the fitness you need to start running comfortably—and get your bones, muscles, and tendons the foundation they need to become a runner without getting hurt.

Many aspiring runners dismiss “walk” as a four-letter word, as if it’s cheating, quitting, or not really exercising. But walking is actually the ideal form of exercise for most people who are starting out. It’s free, and you can do it anytime in any place; no special skill, pricey membership, or equipment (except good shoes!) is required. It is the best way to build strong bones, muscles, and ten- dons without getting hurt.

And contrary to what you might think, it’s the walk breaks that are going to allow you to exercise for longer and boost your calorie burn.

“Taking a walk break might make the difference between being able to work out for 20 minutes and exercising for 60 minutes,” says Jeff Gaudette, who is the founder of RunnersConnect, an online training service, “and the cardiovascular benefits and all the things people get into running for, that’s huge.”

Plus, it’s the easiest way to develop the fitness you need to run down the road. Ready? Here’s how to start: