You probably know that walking at a brisk pace is often recommended as a great form of cardio exercise. A brisk pace for a 20-something is not necessarily a brisk pace for an 80-year-old. What is the average walking speed, and how does it vary by age (and sex)? Read on to find out.
Your actual walking speed can vary widely depending on what kind of walk you’re doing. During a short, intense walking workout you’re likely to walk much faster than during a leisurely stroll or while window shopping. Increasing your walking speed will get you to a 10,000 step goal faster, but it’s also more intense and higher impact on your body. Speed also isn’t the only thing – getting more intense through incline walking or walking stairs can also boost your calorie burn.
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What factors go into your walking speed?
There are many individual factors that go into walking speed, like your fitness level, injuries and walking environment. Studies have shown that there are several common factors that influence how fast you may walk. Walking speed varies by age – younger people tend to walk faster. Walking speed also varies by sex – men tend to walk slightly faster than women. People with longer legs (generally taller people) tend to walk faster than shorter people as well.
Average walking speed by age
A 2011 UK study tracked 358 participants of various ages using accelerometers to determine their average walking speeds.
Walking speed by age
- 20-29 years: 3.00 mph (4.83 km/h)
- 30-39 years: 2.82 mph (4.54 km/h)
- 40-49 years: 2.82 mph (4.54 km/h)
- 50-59 years: 2.75 mph (4.43 km/h)
- >60 years: 2.71 mph (4.36 km/h)
What other factors came into play?
The 2011 study followed participants over 7 day periods by having them wear a motion tracking belt over time. This worked to see how far people walked as well as how many “running” steps they took during the day.
Steps per day as well as running steps were highest for <30 year olds and dropped as people aged. Another factor they looked at was BMI. While walking speed per BMI is not available from the article, it did find that people with higher BMI’s had fewer running steps, fewer walking steps and covered a lower distance.
Walking speed by sex
Another 1997 study researched comfortable walking speed and maximum speed in a lab setting. Participants were timed with a stopwatch walking across 25 feet (7.62 m). Here’s what they found:
Comfortable walking speed for men (by age)
- 20’s: 3.12 mph (5.02 km/h)
- 30’s: 3.26 mph (5.25 km/h)
- 40’s: 3.27 mph (5.26 km/h)
- 50’s: 3.12 mph (5.02 km/h)
- 60’s: 3.04 mph (4.89 km/h)
- 70’s: 2.98 mph (4.80 km/h)
Comfortable walking speed for women (by age)
- 20’s: 3.15 mph (5.07 km/h)
- 30’s: 3.17 mph (5.10 km/h)
- 40’s: 3.11 mph (5.01 km/h)
- 50’s: 3.12 mph (5.02 km/h)
- 60’s: 2.90 mph (4.67 km/h)
- 70’s: 2.85 mph (4.59 km/h)
Maximum speed for men (by age)
- 20’s: 5.57 mph (8.96 km/h)
- 30’s: 5.49 mph (8.84 km/h)
- 40’s: 5.51 mph (8.87 km/h)
- 50’s: 4.63 mph (7.45km/h)
- 60’s: 4.32 mph (6.95 km/h)
- 70’s: 4.65 mph (7.48 km/h)
Maximum speed for women (by age)
- 20’s: 5.52 mph (8.88 km/h)
- 30’s: 5.24 mph (8.43 km/h)
- 40’s: 4.75 mph (7.64 km/h)
- 50’s: 4.50 mph (7.24 km/h)
- 60’s: 3.97 mph (6.39 km/h)
- 70’s: 3.91 mph (6.29 km/h)
This study involved 230 participants, so it’s possible that some of the small variations in speed were based on a small sample size (men in their 70’s ran faster than men in their 60’s for instance).
It is interesting to note that for walking, the 30’s for women and 30’s and 40’s for men were the fastest walking ages. In general, men walked faster than women.
Maximum speed (basically a run) dropped steadily from the 20’s to the 70’s in women but stayed fairly constant until the 50’s for men.
It should be noted that taller people tend to walk faster than shorter people due to having longer legs. Shorter people must take more steps to catch up to faster people (check your steps per mile here). Men tend to be taller than women, which can account for some of this difference.
A 2006 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology tested 39 people of both overweight and normal-weight people, and found that both groups had an average preferred walking speed of around 3.18 Mph (5.12 kph). This fits well with the above data.
How can I walk faster?
We’ve covered how you can walk faster to get more steps, but here are a few tips. To safely walk faster, concentrate on having good posture to prevent injuries and have a more natural motion.
- Keep your head up – use good posture, with your eyes scanning about 20 feet ahead and chin level to the ground.
- Swing your arms naturally – bend your arms at around a 90% angle, and try not to cross them in front of your body.
- Heel to toe – you should be landing your heels, then rolling through to push off your toes as you walk.
- Quicker steps, not longer steps – focus on taking more steps with a natural stride. Trying to take long strides will slow you down and leave you with an unnatural motion.
Power Walking and Interval Training
2 great ways to walk faster are power walking and interval training.
Power walking uses arm motion to give you a more full-body walking workout as well as get faster steps. We’ve covered power walking before, but here are some tips:
- Maintain good walking posture
- Swing your arms gently without exaggerating too much
- Tighten your core & glutes for a strong workout
- Breathe naturally
- Take shorter, quicker strides
Interval training uses periods of fast and slow walking for an intense walking workout. Though some of your walk will be at a slower pace, you can increase your overall walking speed by using those fast bursts of speed. We’ve covered interval walking here (you can also try this walking workout), but try these tips:
- Always warm-up and cool down before starting intervals
- Use brief periods of fast walking with rest periods of slow to moderate walking
- Start with shorter periods of time, as interval training can get intense
- Skip a fast interval if you’re struggling to finish
- Gradually increase the length of your fast intervals, or increase the speed during intervals as you build endurance
Even if you end up at a similar average speed doing interval walking, those periods of intense faster walking will help you burn more calories and get your heart pumping. You can use Pacer’s GPS walk tracking during your intervals to see if you’re actually walking faster than normal.
Get more intense without walking faster
We should note that you don’t necessarily have to walk faster to get a more intense walk. Walking on an incline burns more calories and uses more energy than walking on a flat surface. Walking up and down stairs is even more intense. Some of the power walking concepts, like keeping your core tight and squeezing your glutes can add a bit of intensity as well.
If you’re not comfortable walking faster, or if you find that it’s just not fun – don’t worry! Getting active is important, and you can still burn the same amount of calories even if it takes a bit longer.
Check your speed with Pacer’s GPS walking
You can use Pacer’s GPS walk tracking to see how fast you’re going during your walks. It can be useful to create a baseline by going for a leisurely walk. Try walking for 10 minutes or more to ensure you’re on a pace that you can maintain over time. After doing a few of these, you’ll have an idea of your average walking speed.
Once you know your average walking speed, you can track your speed during fitness walks – be they 1-hour calorie-burning brisk walks or 15-minute intense walking workouts. This allows you to get more active, get more steps and walk at the best pace to meet your fitness goals.
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