Back in our younger days, we were probably avid runners. Running track and cross country could be an easy task for some, while some even joined 5k mud runs or color runs for great causes. These days, however, all that high-impact running has taken a toll on our knees. This is why you’ll love power walking!
Here are some of the benefits.
Table of Contents
What Is Power Walking?
Power walking, or speed walking, is more than just a brisk walk. When power walking, you walk at a speed at the upper end of the natural pace for walking. A normal walking pace for most is 3 mph, so for power walking, aim for anywhere between 4 to 5.5 mph.
To power walk effectively, maintain an erect posture, swing your arms naturally, and take smooth and purposeful strides with one foot in contact with the ground at all times.
During power or speed walking, your heart rate increases. The number of calories burned by power walking can be the same as running without all the high impact on your joints!
Power Walking vs. Running
Running can provide you with many health benefits, and it is one of the cheapest ways to exercise compared to other types of workouts. According to Dr. Andrew Weil,
“the intensity of running promotes fitness and efficiently burns more calories than other activities”.
However, running is a high-impact exercise that can lead to injuries if you’re not careful, and it won’t do much in developing your upper body.
Runners can be at a particular disadvantage because they can develop numerous injuries quickly from all the impacts on their feet, knees, ankles, and other joints, such as:
- Shin splints
- Plantar fasciitis
- Stress fractures
- Achilles tendonitis
Power Walking vs. Jogging
Power walking or speed walking, on the other hand, is different from running, jogging, or traditional walking because of its increased intensity emanating from arm movements, longer strides, and a faster pace. This allows you to get all the benefits of running without the above-mentioned disadvantages.
Hidden Benefits of Power Walking
Power walking is an accessible form of exercise that requires no special equipment or facilities. It can be done almost anywhere, such as on sidewalks, trails, or tracks, and it only requires a good pair of walking shoes.
Power walking can be done in any open area, and it’s easy to do. Let’s take a look at why you should start power walking now.
1. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Power walkers have increased heart rates, especially when done at a moderate to high-intensity level. Exercise that boosts your heart rate is excellent for combating heart disease and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
A recent observational study shows that taking more steps each day – even if you walk at a regular pace – is linked with living longer.
Power walking puts a higher demand on your cardiovascular system because it requires more steps per minute and more involvement from your major muscle groups.
If you are new to working out, starting with a regular walk can help ease into a new routine. Walking will still help you burn calories and improve your cardiovascular fitness, and when you are ready, you can increase your pace gradually to power walking levels.
2. Reduced Risks
An hour of power walking at 4.5 mph would burn the same amount of energy as a 30-minute run without the pressure on your joints.
While power walking and regular walking work the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, and hip abductors, power walking also tones the shoulders, upper back, and glutes!
Power walking helps burn calories while toning your muscles more than a regular walk would. It is even a great core workout. The more intensely you move your arms during power walking, the more you can engage your entire body, challenging your balance and stability.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
“a regular brisk walk can help you maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat”.
3. Improved Bone Health
Power walking can have positive effects on bone health due to its weight-bearing nature and impact on bone density. A recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that even an hour per day of power walking prevents disability in people who have joint problems in their lower extremities.
The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
Why Power Walking Beats Running?
Power walking is better than running because it burns the same amount of calories yet eliminates the negative side effects of running.
Power walking improves cardiovascular health. It engages more muscle and requires more steps per minute. This boosts your heart rate, which is excellent against heart diseases and other chronic illnesses.
Given that your joints are engaged in a safer routine, you can then improve the health of your bones as well.
How to Power Walk
Start with a few minutes of gentle walking to warm up your muscles and increase your heart rate slightly. This can include walking at a relaxed pace and swinging your arms gently.
Maintain Proper Posture: Good posture is essential for effective power walking. Keep your head up, looking forward, and your gaze around 20 to 30 feet ahead. Avoid looking down at the ground. Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and engage your core muscles to support your spine.
Swing Your Arms
As you power walk, swing your arms naturally in sync with your stride. Your arms should be bent at around a 90-degree angle. The motion of your arms helps propel you forward and contributes to the overall power of your walk.
Take Purposeful Steps
Take brisk and purposeful steps. Your stride should be longer than your regular walking stride but not as long as a running stride. Land on your heel and roll through your foot to your toes with each step.
Roll Through Your Feet
As you step forward, your heel should make contact with the ground first, followed by a rolling motion through the middle of your foot to your toes. Push off with your toes for the next step.
Maintain a Brisk Pace
Power walking involves walking at a pace that is faster than your typical walking speed but not as fast as running. You should be breathing more deeply than usual, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation without being completely out of breath.
Engage Your Core
Keep your core muscles lightly engaged throughout your walk. This helps with stability, balance, and overall posture.
Focus on Your Hips
Engage your hips by slightly rotating them with each step. This hip movement contributes to the fluidity and power of your walk.
Towards the end of your power walk, gradually slow down your pace and transition to a slower, more relaxed walk. This cooldown period helps bring your heart rate down gradually.
After your power walk, perform some gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and prevent muscle tightness.
Hydration and Nutrition
Stay hydrated before, during, and after your power walk. Also, consider having a balanced meal or snack that includes protein and carbohydrates to fuel your body.
Starting Your Routine
If you’re new to exercise or increasing the intensity of your walks. Start slowly and gradually and you’ll still get great benefits from it. Try this interval walking plan to get started.
This simple interval session gradually builds in intensity to a peak, then eases back down.
- 5-minute warmup walk
- 5-minute typical walk
- 4-minute brisker than usual walk
- 2-minute fastest possible walk
- 4-minute brisker than usual walk
- 5-minute typical walk
- 5-minute cool-down walk
Always speak to your primary care physician before starting a new exercise routine.
Tips for Implementing a Power Walking Routine
To get the most out of power walking, consider these tips:
- Choose the Right Shoes: Invest in a pair of comfortable, supportive walking shoes that provide adequate cushioning and stability. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to discomfort and injuries.
- Set Clear Goals: Determine what you want to achieve with your power walking routine. Whether it’s improving your fitness level, losing weight, or simply staying active, having clear goals will help you stay motivated and focused.
- Find Suitable Terrain: Start with flat, even surfaces and gradually introduce inclines to increase the challenge. This will help work different muscle groups and add variety to your routine.
- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience pain, discomfort, or extreme fatigue, it’s important to rest and, if necessary, consult a healthcare professional.
How Much and How Often?
When it comes to any exercise routine, the duration and intensity depend on your schedule. Ideally, 30 minutes of power walking 3 days per week is a great starting point.
Walking at a steady state can get boring, and it also limits the calories you can burn. Adding in intervals can burn more calories during and after your workout by increasing your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
Interval training can vary in many ways. You can increase your pace for a certain number of minutes or a certain distance. For example, pick a landmark in the distance, like a light post or speed limit sign, and walk at a brisker pace where talking becomes difficult until you get to it. Then, keep alternating that way between easy and harder efforts.
The Bottom Line
If you haven’t tried power walking or speed walking, now is the time to give this low-impact, effective exercise a try. This go-anywhere exercise is great for all fitness levels. The reduced risks of joint deterioration and injury make it more appealing to most age groups.
If you want to stay fit, become fit, or get back at getting fit, adding this movement to your exercise regime today will be a great investment in your body!
|||^||Dr. Andrew Weil: The Pros and Cons of Running|
|||^||JAMA Intern Med: Prospective Associations of Daily Step Counts and Intensity With Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence and Mortality and All-Cause Mortality|
|||^||Mayo Clinic: Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health|
|||^||American Journal of Preventative Medicine: One Hour a Week: Moving to Prevent Disability in Adults With Lower Extremity Joint Symptoms|