Walk A Little Faster, Burn A Lot More Calories

We’ve already posted other blog articles about how walking produces amazing health benefits. And, as most people know, walking is a good way to lose weight.

However, I stumbled upon a great article about walking in an issue of More Magazine that really adds a new dimension to the discussion. Its amazing new point of view? Walk faster.

That doesn’t sound earth-shattering, does it? But from my point of view, it really is.

Walking can burn more calories than running

The original article article by Michelle Stanten (no longer available online) challenges the notion that walking is a moderate workout and says it can be a high-intensity exercise for burning more calories than running.

She cites a 2006 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. It shows that walkers in their fifties burned 25% more calories when they increased their walking speed a mere half mile per hour from 3.6 mph to 4.1 mph. But the caloric burn gets greater as speed increases. Add another half mile per hour from 4.1 to 4.6 and the effect burns 32 percent more calories.

According to Mark Fenton, walking guru and former Olympian speed walker, the critical pace to reach and exceed is 4 mph. For every tenth you add beyond 4 mph, the caloric burn advantage begins to cascade. And get this…when you exceed 5 mph, you burn more calories than if you were running. How’s that possible? When you walk, muscles must generate energy for every movement forward. When you run, you’re temporarily airborne, you fall onto your leg and it acts like a spring for the next launch.

So how do you walk at speeds of 4, 5 or even 6 mph?

Walking Tips to Burn More Calories

Here are just a few Walking tips mentioned in More Magazine.

  1. Keep your posture upright.

    Gently contract abdominal muscles to keep your pelvis neutral and your lower back from arching too much. Keep your eyes on the horizon and your chin level with the ground. This form keeps your shoulders back and your chest open.

  2. Swing your arms faster as you walk.

    Bend elbows at 90 degrees, holding your arms in at your sides. Don’t swing them across your body or let them stray outward. By focusing on your faster arms, your legs will keep up with the pace.

  3. Power your walking from the back leg.

    This part seems to be the most important part of walking faster. When you walk faster, you tend to take longer steps with the forward moving leg. But when you reach farther, the front leg also acts like a brake and slows you down. Instead, increase the length of your stride on the back leg by making an effort to roll through the ball of your foot and push off with your toes. This will extend your stride behind you and keeping the trailing leg on the ground just a bit longer.

Keep track of your walking progress

Chart your progress by counting steps for 30 to 60 seconds. At 120 steps per minute, you’re moving at about 3 mph. 135 steps per minute is the equivalent of about 3.8 to 4 mph, and at 150 steps per minute, you’re at about 4.5 mph.

That’s a ballpark figure, and you can find more precise ways to find out just how fast you’re walking.

Calculate your walking speed

There are methods for calculating your speed that involve tape measures, length of stride and a bunch of calculations. If that appeals to you, you can easily find more information about walking speed calculation at sites like Livestrong.com.

You can also download an app on your GPS-enabled smartphone. If you enjoy obsessing, the apps are for you. You’ll be able to view your continuous walking time, distance, pace, calories burned and average pace. You can see your walking route on a map while you are walking, and the apps can post updates of your progress to Twitter, Facebook and email. Some even provide voice updates for your time, distance, and Twitter. After your walk, you can see your stats and review workouts. Some of these apps include Walkmeter, AllSportGPS and iMapMyWalk.

Personally, I find that spooky and Orwellian. If you’re like me, get a watch with a second hand and find a quarter-mile high school track. Walk four times around on the inside lane. Note the time it takes on your watch in minutes and seconds. Then calculate your pace using high school math. Much easier still, find an online pace calculator and plug in your time. Bingo. There’s your pace.

When all is said and done, it seems the last equation is the simplest one:

Walk faster = burn lots more.

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