To increase: Every four to six weeks, bump up your frequency by adding one more day per week. In two months, you should be walking four or five days per week, even if you don’t increase how fast or how long you walk. When you’re ready to make a second increase, choose either to walk the same distance faster or walk a few minutes longer at your usual pace.     

Listen to your body: If your joints hurt when you walk faster, it’s OK to walk slower while you adjust to your new routine. Remember: It isn't cheating to drop down to an easier level for a while. In fact, one study showed that walking at a 2-mph pace still burns calories while producing 25 percent less stress on knees. Lowering your intensity is preferred over decreasing frequency or not moving at all. “I always advise my patients to continue an exercise program but modify it to limit pain and discomfort,” says Dr. Hame.

You know when you need to slow down and when your body can “go the extra mile.” Adjust your intensity and the length of your walk, as necessary, while maintaining your frequency, and you may find you’re walking faster and longer – and reaping more health benefits – before you know it.

Get in the habit: If you start walking each day, chances are good that in two weeks you’ll start to feel a difference in pain, function, and mood. In six weeks, you’ll start to see a difference in muscle tone and weight. And in 12 weeks you will have made walking a daily habit, the same as brushing your teeth. Then it’s time for a pat on the back.

Need help getting started?: The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease Program offers proven effective results, and allows you to walk on your own or as part of a group.