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Is walking faster better for your health?

By The Health News Team | September 5, 2023
Person tying their running shoes

It’s no surprise that walking is a great form of exercise. But did you know that walking faster is even better?

Studies have found that people who walk at a faster pace — for about 30 minutes a day — have a significantly reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and death compared with those whose average pace was slower.

According to Stewart Sanders, physical therapist and director of Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Running Clinic, brisk walking is a moderate-intensity exercise that provides a way to increase your physical activity. Walking briskly, he says, can also help build stamina and burn excess calories.

Walking for overall fitness and weight loss

Walking at a brisk pace means walking faster than you normally would. For most people, walking 3 to 3.5 miles per hour, or approximately 120 steps per minute, is a brisk pace.

For weight-loss benefits, walking at about 4 to 4.5 miles per hour, or approximately 135 steps per minute, is more effective at helping you reach your goals. You can use fitness trackers or apps with GPS to track your walking pace.

Walking faster demands more from your cardiovascular system and increases your heart rate. Your target heart rate during a moderate-intensity activity should be about 50% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. You should be able to hold a conversation but find it challenging to sing.

Walking at a brisk pace for a longer duration of time is also effective for weight loss. In fact, a longer walk can be as beneficial as a shorter duration, slightly higher intensity walk, Sanders says, and may lower your risk of injury. Longer duration walks can also help increase your endurance.

Add variation for improved results

If you want to kick things up a notch and include some variation to your routine, you can walk in intervals. Changing your walking speed will improve your overall fitness and boost your calorie and fat burning potential. Interval walking has even greater health benefits than walking at one pace for the same duration of time.

As you increase pace or length, choose a route that is safe and allows for sitting breaks, if needed. And walking with a friend can help make fitness activities more enjoyable and consistent.

“You should aim to walk at a brisk pace multiple times per week to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle,” says Sanders. “It’s simple — just put on a pair of comfortable shoes and place your best foot forward.”

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