How fast should you walk if you’re walking for fitness? You may have heard that “brisk walking” or “fast walking” is ideal, but what does that actually mean? Find out how fast you should walk for fitness, as well as how you can work brisk walking into your walking program.
If you’re walking daily and getting in your steps, then you’ve already set foot in the right direction. The CDC recommends that adults do 150 minutes or more of “moderate aerobic activity” per week, which includes “brisk walking.” But what is “brisk walking” and how do you know how fast to walk? How do you know that you’re keeping up your walking speed? We’re going to cover the basics of brisk walking and give you some tips to help you incorporate brisk walking into your routine.
What Is Brisk Walking?
Brisk walking is a moderate aerobic activity where you’re walking at a speed of 3 to 4.5 mph on a level surface (4.8 to 7.2 kph). At 3 mph, you will be walking a mile every 20 minutes. One way to tell if you’re doing moderate aerobic (cardio) activity is by self-monitoring how intense the exercise feels on your body on a scale of 1 to 20. Moderate physical activity should be between 11-14 on a scale of 1 to 20, whereas vigorous physical activity is between 17-19.
You can also use Pacer’s GPS walk tracking to check your walking speed. You don’t have to check continually – just start a GPS track and finish it at the end of the walk to see your average speed.
Why Brisk Walking?
Some of the benefits of brisk walking include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Preventing or managing health conditions such as heart disease
- Making your bones and muscles stronger
- Improving your mood
- Improving your balance and coordination
How Do You Know If You’re Walking Too Slow or Too Fast?
One great way to check your walking pace is by using Pacer’s GPS walk tracking. Brisk walking means a pace of a 20-minute mile, and Pacer’s GPS tracking shows your pace.
Brisk walking for exercise should also feel different than taking a leisurely stroll. Here are some of the signs that you’re doing moderate exercise.
- Your breathing is faster than normal but you don’t feel out of breath
- You can carry on a conversation, but couldn’t sing the words to a song
- After about 10 minutes, you start to sweat
- Your heart rate is at about 50 to 70 percent of its maximum rate
Studies have shown that the average walking speed is around 3-3.25 mph for younger people and this number decreases with age. A great way to find an ideal brisk walking speed for yourself is to start at a completely leisurely, comfortable pace. Track your walk with GPS and see how fast this is. Then increase the intensity slightly for your next walk. Eventually, you’ll find a speed that pushes you a bit but that you can maintain over time. That can be your goal to aim for on future brisk walks.
Ways to Add Brisk Walking Into Your Walking Routine
Now that you know what brisk walking is, you can incorporate it into your walking routine. If you’re not sure where to walk, at what times or how to keep up your energy levels, here are some useful tips:
Use locations with paths to your advantage
It’s easier to keep up a brisk pace when you’re walking on a level, clear path. Some locations that are great for brisk walking include parks with walking paths, marked hiking trails, circling around a track and around your neighborhood. You can also just walk around your neighborhood, but if you live in a city you may be slowed down by foot traffic, intersections and other issues.
Try walking in the morning or the evening
You may find brisk walking more difficult when there are more people outside, as people become obstacles. Try walking in the morning before work or class. To make this easier, prepare your workout clothes the night before. Likewise, consider walking in the evening after dinner or before bed.
Don’t walk on a full stomach
Brisk walking on a full stomach can make you feel sick, or at least slow you down. Rather than walking after eating a full meal, go for a snack or light meal, instead. In many cases you won’t need to eat a snack at all! Keeping hydrated with water is usually enough.
Keep up your energy level
Brisk walking can make you tired more quickly than when walking at a strolling pace. Stay hydrated, and consider bringing a small, energy-boosting snack. Choose something that’s light, portable and easy to digest, like a banana. Make sure to carry water with you, as you may feel hungry but actually be thirsty.
Take along some backup
Find a like-minded walking buddy who will encourage you to keep up the pace. Try to find a buddy with a similar activity level and similar goals. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself trying to keep up with someone who naturally walks (or jogs) much faster than you. If you have a particularly active dog (or know a friend with one), walking your dog can help you keep up a brisk walk.
Maintain good posture
- Holding your head high
- Looking straight ahead
- Chin parallel to the ground
- Shoulders moving naturally
- Back straight
- Arms swinging freely
- Walking smoothly
- Stomach muscles gently tightened
Listen while you walk
To keep up the pace, walk to music that is high-energy and makes you feel good. You can still listen to an engaging podcast or an interesting audiobook while walking a brisk pace to take your mind off of the walking, but high-energy music can naturally help you to walk faster. You also may find it hard to catch every word of your audiobook or podcast as you’re walking briskly, so consider listening to something like a daily news or sports podcast where you won’t mind if you zone out for a minute or two.
When you’re doing brisk or fast walking, make sure to be aware of your surroundings. You’re more likely to bump into something (or someone) or to step into an intersection without checking both ways. If your music is very loud, try taking the earphones out of one ear so that you’ll still hear your surroundings. Lower your music (or take your earphones out) for intersections or high traffic areas. Safety is most important, so if you’re walking at night or on a narrow sidewalk, turn the music off temporarily.
Set goals for yourself
Create a plan outlining how many times per week you want to incorporate brisk walking into your routine. This could mean marking days on the calendar or your planner with “brisk walking” assigned to blocks of time. Scheduling your walks is especially important if you feel that you’re “too busy” to exercise. Keep step goals as well – having a 10,000 step goal gives you a walking goal to aim for. You’ll probably walk faster knowing that you’ll feel great if you manage to hit that step number.
The faster you walk, the more likely you are to work up a sweat. For fitness walking, you may want to set aside a block of time where you can walk, then take a shower and take a rest before continuing on with your day. You can also try taking a change of clothes to work and walking during lunch or other breaks.
Brisk walking is an important aspect of any health or fitness walking routine. Now that you know how to identify brisk walking and have some quick tips under your belt, get out there and walk!
Track your walking path with GPS, and keep an eye on your progress over time. Before long, brisk walking will become part of your daily or weekly walking routine.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.