Brisk walking: how fast should you walk for fitness?

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.

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What Is Brisk Walking?

brisk walking with poles in a field

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 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?

Happey women walking together in park

Some of the benefits of brisk walking include:

How Do You Know If You’re Walking Too Slow or Too Fast?

Couple doing an intense walk

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

Man running on jogging path

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

Couple walking in a morning sunrise

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 when you get home from work or before bed.

Don’t walk on a full stomach

Healthy oatmeal

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.

Keep up your energy level

Female athlete eating a banana

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

Happy walkers feeling great

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), that can help you keep up a brisk walk.

Maintain good posture

Proper walking posture graphic

Whether you’re walking at a slow or fast pace, proper walking posture is important. Proper walking technique includes:

  • 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

Walker stretching while listening to headphones

To keep up the pace, walk to music that is high-energy and makes you feel good. You can still listen to podcasts or audiobooks while walking a brisk pace to take your mind off of the walking, but high-energy music can naturally help you to walk faster.

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.

Set goals for yourself

Time to set goals concept

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Get Pacer

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.

47 thoughts on “Brisk walking: how fast should you walk for fitness?

    1. I just did a quick check, and there seems to be some military cadence tracks in mp3 form available from various sites. You can also try internet radio apps like Spotify and iHeartRadio among others. Hope that helps. Glad to hear you’re finding new ways to get more steps!

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  1. I am 79 and try to walk everyday. I am walking an 18 minute mile and everyone says that is too fast. What is too fast?

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    1. Hi Julie! I can’t say for certain without knowing your background, physical conditions and any potential injuries. A lot will depend on whether you feel out of breath or sore after walking at that pace. An 18 minute mile is 3.3 mph, which is essentially a moderate walking pace. If your doctor thinks it’s too fast, then by all means walk slower!

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