You’ve probably heard that walking is a great way to get exercise. And that’s certainly true. It’s an easy, accessible, free activity that can get your heart rate up and have the potential to keep your body healthy longer.
But not all walking is created equally. In fact, several studies show that walking at a rapid pace correlates to living longer. A 2013 study from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that of the 40,000 men and women who walked for fitness, those who walked at a very slow pace (24 minutes per mile) were 44% more likely to die within the 10-year study period than those who walked at a faster pace.
Subsequent studies show similar findings, with those who walked, ran or cycled at a faster pace having lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as a reduced risk of heart attack than those who moved slower. That’s particularly true among older adults.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin — a fitness guru, longtime radio host and sports medicine doctor with more than 50 years of practice — explored the findings of these studies in a recent blog post.
“Walking is one of the safest and most effective sports for fitness, but to become fit, you have to move fairly fast,” Mirkin said. “Healthy people should exercise vigorously enough to increase their heart rates at least 20 beats a minute more than when they rest.”
Mirkin added that walking at a leisurely pace is unlikely to keep your heart healthy.
In short, while any movement is great, walking rapidly does a whole lot more for your overall fitness levels. With that in mind, we rounded up 5 solid steps to improve your walking pace and enjoy the healthful benefits that come along with doing so!
Step 1: Map out a specific route.
Planning is key to setting yourself up for success. Start by determining the exact distance you want to go and figuring out the best outdoor route to get to and from that distance. Do you want to go a mile? Great! Find a 0.5-mile out-and-back route in your neighborhood or a loop that gets you close to that mile mark.
Step 2: Pick an initial goal time.
Once you have your route figured out, choose the time you want to complete the route in week one. If, for example, it’s a mile, commit to finishing that mile in 20 minutes or less the first week.
Step 3: Amp it up!
For each subsequent week, choose goal times that cut back on your initial time by at least a minute. So, say you’re going for a 20-minute mile in week one. In week two, commit to finishing the route in 19 minutes; in week three go for 18 minutes, and so on until you reach your ultimate goal time for the initial route and distance you chose.
Step 4: Extend the distance.
Now that you’ve reached your goal time for the first route, increase the distance! If you started with a mile, bump it up to 1 ½ miles. Then, create a new goal time and repeat Step 3 for your new distance.
Step 5: Keep going!
Keep the momentum you’ve created going by upping the distance and goal times until you get to the point where you are power walking at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You’ll find that the more you do it, the easier it will get!
Not sure how to up walking intensity?
Mirkin shared the following tips:
- Take longer steps by twisting your hips from side to side, pointing your feet forward and reaching further forward.
- Move your feet at a faster rate by keeping your elbows bent at the fulcrum and moving your arms faster. The feet will naturally follow.
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.