If you’d like to burn more calories while walking and get more steps, one great method is to walk a bit faster. It seems easy, but if it was that simple everyone would walk at an extremely brisk pace all of the time. Perfecting your fast walking form helps you walk faster for a longer time and decreases your risk of injury – all while you’re getting more steps!
No matter what reason prompted you to begin walking, you’ve likely noticed some positive results. Maybe your waistline is already getting trimmer. You may be sleeping better and have more energy throughout the day. Your legs and hips are growing stronger and you may have eliminated some of the aches and pains associated with a sedentary lifestyle. As your daily walks get easier, you may be preparing to increase your speed for a more challenging workout.
There are many benefits to increasing your walking speed. You can gain more steps and reach your daily goal more easily within the same amount of time. You’ll also burn more calories and gain strength. A 150-pound walker going at 3.5 mph burns 149 calories in 30 minutes. By increasing their speed to 4.5 mph, that walker would burn 186 calories in the same amount of time (a 25% increase!). As we can see, speed is a major factor in how many calories you burn while walking.
Additionally, increasing your speed to a brisk walking pace means your heart has to pump faster and your lungs work harder, giving you more cardio benefits than a slower walking pace. However, it’s important to remember that increased speed can add more strain to your body. This makes proper form more important than ever.
4 Ways Proper Form Can Help You Increase Walking Speed
If you’ve been trying to increase your speed, but can’t seem to get in the right rhythm, your form may be to blame. Let’s be honest – most of us CAN walk (or jog) a bit faster if we really need to. But we may find it hard to maintain that speed for a whole walk or may feel consistently sore after. That’s where form comes in!
Often, when walkers concentrate on speeding up, proper posture and form are forgotten. The way you hold your body, swing your arms, and plant your feet while walking all can have an effect on your speed. Using the correct form for faster walking will help you increase your step count naturally. But speeding up your walk does require certain additional adjustments.
1. Keep Your Head and Eyes Up
Sometimes, when people concentrate on walking faster they lean forward. This tends to place strain on your back and drops your gaze towards the ground. This movement is actually counterproductive to faster walking. When your eyes aren’t on the horizon, you’re depending on your upper body to pull you into a faster pace.
Try to keep your gaze about 20 feet ahead, which keeps your chin and head level with the ground. Your shoulders should be relaxed and slightly back, with your stomach firm. All of these factors align your body and head into the right posture, which naturally increases your pace as you aim for a longer distance.
2. Move Your Arms the Right Way
If you aren’t using arm motion while walking, simply adding movement can help you increase your speed. You may have seen people wildly swinging their arms while walking. That’s often wasted motion, which actually doesn’t help you walk faster. If you’re accustomed to swinging your arms while walking, make sure you aren’t wasting your energy with the wrong form.
These blunders should be avoided when using your arms to increase speed:
- Don’t cross your arms in front of your body while walking can slow speed.
- Don’t stick your elbows out, as it wastes energy.
- Don’t keep your arms straight while walking, as it reduces efficiency.
For proper arm motion to increase your speed, bend the arms at a 90-degree angle and keep your elbows close to your body. Don’t bend your arms so much that you’re at a more acute angle (your arms shouldn’t be bent back so your hands are against your chest as you walk). Curl your fists gently and avoid crossing the forward hand in front of your body.
Move your arms in sync with the opposite foot (bring your right arm forward as your left foot steps ahead). As you grow comfortable with this motion, you can naturally increase your speed by moving your arms faster.
It’s important not to hold things in your hand on a regular basis, as it can throw off your balance. This is why walking with weights is a bad idea. As you walk faster more often, you’ll get into a natural, relaxed rhythm.
3. Push off your toes
As you walk, your heel should land first before your toes. Some runners land with their foot flat, but walkers should have their feet hitting heel first. As your foot lands, you want to get a good push off your back leg to propel yourself forward.
Your step motion should consist of rolling from your heel to your toe. As your foot lands heel first, you’ll roll through to the ball of your foot and push off from there. Good walking shoes have flex in them which makes it easier to get this pushing off effect. More rigid dress shoes may not be able to flex as well, which is one reason it’s hard to walk quickly with them.
Push off from your toes and the ball of your foot as you take the next step. This will give you more power in your step which will propel you faster.
4. Quicker steps, not longer strides
While it seems like increasing your stride would be the best way to increase speed, the opposite is actually true. Walking faster does naturally increases your stride, but the length of your legs plays a big part in stride length. In other words, you can only increase your stride so much before compromising important elements of walking form.
Consciously increasing your step rate can help you increase speed and improve physical fitness. Stride length increases naturally to fit your body type as speed improves. However, consciously attempting to increase stride can result in damage to your buttocks, hamstrings, and lower back.
It’s often actually good to consciously take shorter strides as you walk quickly. Taking more, smaller steps will help you increase your speed while maintaining your form so you can walk longer, faster.
Special Considerations for Faster Walking
There’s no doubt that walking faster can offer many benefits. However, it’s important to remember the risks as well. Increased speed means you’re placing more stress on your body. This means you have to be careful to avoid injury and fatigue. If you’re prepared to increase your walking speed, use these tips to avoid unanticipated problems.
- Bring a bigger water bottle. When your heart and lungs are working harder, you’re likely to become thirsty more quickly. Staying hydrated will help you avoid fatigue and finish your route.
- Wear the right shoes. Proper support is more important than ever as you increase the number of steps you take. You may be able to get away with walking in dress shoes at a leisurely pace, but for fast walking, proper shoes become more and more important.
- Avoid overdoing it. Walking faster may seem easy at first, but you can increase your risk of muscle fatigue and injury with too big of a change. You may not notice the strain at first, so limit your pace and fast walking time and see how you feel after your walk and the next day. The faster you walk, the faster you’ll get tired. As you first increase speed, it helps to find a walking path with benches or seats so you can take a break if you need to.
- Pay attention to posture. While you may have already learned proper walking posture, it’s easily overlooked when you’re distracted or fatigued. Make sure to follow the posture tips above – especially when you’re feeling tired. If you notice you’re unable to maintain proper posture, take a break or reduce your speed. Fatigue and bad posture are the quickest paths to injury.
- Quit while you’re ahead. While cutting your walk short shouldn’t be your goal, fatigue is a sign you need to rest. Tiredness can lead to improper form and potential injuries. If you’re used to walking 30 minutes at 3 mph, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to be able to go 30 minutes at 4.5 mph without difficulty. That’s fine! Focus on your form and maintaining it as long as possible, and you’ll work your way back up.
Increasing your speed is a great way to increase the intensity of your walking workout, but only if you take the right precautions. Proper form and careful planning can help you avoid injuries and increase the health benefits of brisk walking. For more tips about walking for fitness, visit our blog. If you haven’t already downloaded the Pacer App, try it today to help you meet your walking goals.