It's no secret that power walking is an excellent form of physical activity. A daily brisk walk can help you decrease or maintain weight, lower blood pressure, improve heart health, strengthen bones and muscles, enhance balance and coordination and reduce symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What Counts as Power Walking?
At its most basic level, power walking is a low-impact alternative to jogging that takes regular walking and ups the speed and intensity. But unlike jogging, power walking is easier on your joints.
Think of it this way: If you put two walkers next to each other and told one of them to move at a moderate pace with their arms at their sides, and the other person to increase their speed while simultaneously pumping their arms, it would be very easy to see the difference between the two styles of walking.
The speed of power walking is somewhere between an average walking pace and a jogging pace. This range will look different for everyone, but to get a general idea of pace, Harvard Health Publishing reports that walking at 3.5 mph will allow you to complete one mile in about 17 minutes. Increase that pace to 4.5 mph, and you can now complete one mile in about 13 minutes, which is closer to the speed of power walking.
Or if you're keeping track of calories, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 149 calories in 30-minutes walking at 3.5 mph. Increase that to 4.5 mph, and you are now looking at a total of 186 calories burned in 30-minutes.
Benefits of Power Walking
Since power walking requires a faster pace while pumping your arms, you'll increase your heart rate to a level that's higher than slower-paced walking. This leads to an improvement in cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
According to the American Council on Exercise, you can burn approximately 100 calories walking one mile. If you shift your walking from a moderate to a vigorous pace, you can cover more ground in less time, which means a higher calorie burn.
Just in case you need one more reason to take up power walking, in an August 2017 study published in the European Heart Journal, researchers found that the faster you walk, the lower your chances are of dying from heart disease compared to slower walkers. The study emphasizes that brisk walkers have lower cardiac and all-cause death.
Pro Power Walking Tips
While power walking might seem fairly intuitive, there are some important tips to consider, especially when it comes to your form. First, check to make sure your posture is upright with your head up and neck relaxed, while also pulling your shoulders down and back.
When you walk at a faster pace, you'll use your arms considerably, so make sure you're pumping them freely with a slight bend in the elbows. Engage your core muscles (think: belly button to spine) and keep your lower back straight.
Some people like to add ankle weights or small hand weights to their walking routine. While this may seem like a great idea, it's not always advisable to introduce a weighted resistance.If you have issues with your joints, adding resistance may cause strain or increase your risk of injury.
Rather than adding weight, consider increasing your walking pace, distance or incline or perform a few body-weight exercises such as lunges and squats every 10 minutes during your workout.
Like any other exercise, it's important to warm up before and cool down after. Start with a slower-paced walk for five to 10 minutes. Begin to move your arms, but in a shorter range of motion, working up to the full pumping motion by the 10-minute mark. For the cool down, slow your pace and arm range of motion down, and don't forget to stretch.
- American Council on Exercise: "7 Benefits of Walking"
- Mayo Clinic: "Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- European Heart Journal: "Association of Walking Pace and Handgrip Strength with All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality: A UK Biobank Observational Study"