Like keeping a food journal when dieting, a walking diary can be an effective tool for helping you reach your fitness goals.

Want to give it a try? Use these tips from the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease program and Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.

When: There is no one right time to write, says Matthews. What’s important is that you write consistently and often enough that you remember the details of your walk and how you felt before, during and after it, she says.

Where: There are many ways to keep your diary. Matthews recommends using what works best for you – from phone apps and online logs to handwritten exercise journals. A simple spiral notebook can work just fine.

What: Detail your walk – time, distance, speed, intensity, terrain – as well as how you felt before and after in terms of pain, energy level and mood; how you slept the night before and after; and what you ate.

Why: Keeping a walking journal helps you see patterns to help you determine what works and what doesn’t – for example, lunchtime vs. evening walks. It also can keep you accountable and focused on your goals. It not only gives you a sense of accomplishment to see how far you’ve come, says Matthews, but it also helps keep you going at times you aren’t seeing the results you would like.

“For example, if you are walking to lose weight, it is easy to get discouraged if you don’t see the scale moving in the right direction,” she says. “But if you keep a walking journal, you can see other positives – better sleep, more energy, positive benefits in mood – you might not otherwise attribute to walking.”

If you hit a plateau and decide to see a trainer, showing her a copy of your diary can be helpful, much like bringing medical records to a new doctor, says Matthews. “It can give the trainer a good picture of what you have been doing and where to go from there.”