What is power walking?

Statue by Hugo Lederer (photo by chaosinjune - CC-BY)

Statue by Hugo Lederer (photo by chaosinjune - CC-BY)

Power walking, also known as speed walking or fitness walking, is a style of walking that is optimised for exercise and cardiovascular fitness. Normal walking pace is a little under four miles per hour (six kilometers per hour). Power walking raises that to around five miles per hour (seven to nine kilometers per hour), which produces worthwhile benefits.

The most obvious benefit is an increase in metabolic rate due to the extra speed. Your heart rate increases a little, as does your breathing. With that comes an increase in your calorie consumption, and an increase in appetite that makes even low-fat foods taste great.

But the benefits go beyond that. Pushing your walking speed towards the maximum that can be achieved with a walking gait forces you to use a wider range of muscles, for example you swing your arms more. Some people like to increase this effect further by carrying small weights in their hands or wrapped around their wrists.

At this speed, you gain the same fitness benefits offered by jogging, but with lower impact to the joints.

If you want to measure your speed, you can carry a GPS device, virtually all of which can give you a readout of your current speed. Or you could just time yourself around a measured course (you can measure it with a car odometer, or online with a mapping service such as Google Maps). I sometimes find find myself overtaking joggers when I walk very briskly. The joggers seem bemused to discover that walking can be faster than jogging.

The only things you really need are comfortable shoes and a place to go – and in some places you can even dispense with the shoes.

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