Power walking: A powerful full-body walking workout anyone can do

Power walking is a fast style of walking that uses exaggerated arm movements to move faster and burn more calories than regular walking. Power walking is a great way to make your walks more intense while remaining lower impact than jogging. You’ll also engage more of your body without the need for a gym membership or fancy gear. Best of all, you don’t need to be an athlete to power walk. You only need comfortable attire, appropriate walking shoes, and a love for the outdoors.

There are many myths and misconceptions about power walking, however, so it’s important to use proper form and posture and power walk the right way. We’ll show how to power walk, use your arms and tighten your core plus how you can get started power waking today.

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What is power walking?

Group of people power walking in a city park
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Power walking is a form of walking that emphasizes a fast walking pace and uses the arms to both help you go faster and to get a bit of an upper-body workout. It is different from traditional walking because of its increased intensity emanating from arms movement, longer strides, and faster pace.

If you’re not a fan of jogging, or want to stick to low-impact exercise, power walking is a great option. You’ll be walking at close to a jogging pace, but with much lower impact than you would by running or jogging. Power walking is also a great choice for the fast portions of a walking workout.

While power walking, you’re not just emphasizing walking fast. You can make power walking into a great full-body working out tightening your core, working on your walking stride and getting your arms involved.

How to Power Walk

Senior couple power walking in the park
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It’s important that you use proper form and posture while power walking. This both helps to prevent injury and ensures you can keep up the proper pace. You want to ensure you’re using the proper muscles in the right way so that so that you turn the energy you’re expending into steps and calories burned, rather than risk rolling an ankle or tweaking a knee.

Mind your posture

Keeping proper posture is always important while walking, but when power walking or walking faster it’s especially important. Your eyes should look ahead, your shoulders should be back, and your head should be upright. Try to set your gaze about 20 feet ahead, and don’t slump forward. If you realize your posture is off or you’re slumping forward, correct your posture right away even if it means slowing down. The better posture you can maintain, the faster you can walk and the more steps you can get. Take some time to work on your posture, because proper posture allows you to walk faster and feel less tired while you finish a 30-minute walk or even a 1-hour walk feeling fresh.

Proper walking form also includes ensuring that you’re taking a natural stride – not trying to take longer or shorter steps than your body naturally wants to. Your feet should land heel first, roll through to the toes and finally push off the ball of your foot.

Swing your arms gently

Woman speed walking on a track for fitness
Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Bend your arms at a bit less than a 90-degree angle and swing them naturally front to back as you walk. Your arms should not cross your body, and your elbows shouldn’t swing up too high as you walk. Make sure that the opposite arm and leg are moving in the same direction (left leg and right arm move forward together).

The goal of the arm motion is to help use your whole body to get faster steps. You don’t want to exaggerate your arm motion too much or you’ll interfere with your ability to walk faster. Instead, your arms should swing in a natural motion that feels like it’s assisting your walk. By tightening your core, you’ll get a core workout while your arms move back and forth.

Tighten your core

Activate your abdominal and core muscles as you walk. Imagine you’re trying to tighten your abs to bring your belly button towards your spine. This helps you to maintain posture as it supports your spine, and it also helps to strengthen your abs as well. If your abs are tightened, you may feel a slight burn as you pump your arms to walk. That’s natural. If you feel pain or if the sensation is too intense, let your abs relax a bit and try again later.

You can also tighten your glutes to help align your spine, walk with better posture and get a slight workout. As with your abs, if you’re feeling pain or soreness you can ease up on this (so long as you’re maintaining good posture!).

Take quicker, shorter strides

Couple jogging together for fitness
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While you may feel the urge to take long strides, power walking and other faster forms of walking should feature shorter, quicker strides. Trying to extend your strides leads to unnatural movement, which can lead to injuries or simply not let you walk as fast as you could. When in doubt, simply stride naturally. Getting more steps is also a great way to hit that 10,000 step goal, so don’t worry about how your stride length affects your distance in this situation.

Breathe naturally

You may be tempted to hold your breath as you walk faster, tighten your core and swing your arms. That would be a mistake. Make sure to breathe naturally as you walk. Your body needs extra oxygen as you do more intense exercise, and trying abnormal breathing methods or forgetting to breathe is just going to slow you down. If you feel out of breath, slow down a bit and take a few deep breaths, then focus on ensuring that you’re breathing naturally as you walk.

Warm-up and cool down

Like other forms of cardio exercise, you should always warm-up and cool down when power walking. The more intense you plan to get, the more time you should spend on warming up and cooling down your muscles. This helps to prevent injury and ensure your entire body – muscles, joints, ligaments and more – are prepared to go. If you’re walking in winter or you’re in a cold climate, it’s especially important to warm up and cool down even a bit more than you normally would.

You can start with some dynamic stretches or slow walking before you get into the power walking portion of your walk. Even if you plan to do a quick, 15-minute walk it’s still important to get that warmup and cool down in. You’ll make up that time in the extra steps and calories you’ll burn by walking faster.

Benefits of power walking

Woman power walking near the beach
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1. Weight management

Power walking is a great way to manage your weight. Power walking allows you to walk faster than you would normally. By increasing your speed from 3.5 mph to 4.5 mph, you may burn 25% more calories on your walk. You’ll also engage other parts of your body as you tighten your core and glutes, which can contribute to a more full-body workout. Though you can’t specifically target belly fat by doing this, having a stronger core is important in almost every movement you do on a daily basis.

2. Promote good health

Regular power walking is good for your joint health, mood and energy levels, and cardiovascular health. It helps reduce your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Also, according to the National Cancer Institute, regular and intense physical activity like power walking reduces your risk of certain cancers. While regular walking has many of these same benefits, a faster walk means more steps in a given time.

3. Improve cognitive health

Walking, in general, is great for your mood, creativity and wellbeing. It enhances decision-making, memory and overall mental functioning. A brisk daily walk enhances sleep, and improves self-esteem. You don’t necessarily have to power walk to get some of these benefits, but power walking is a great way to ensure you’re walking at a brisk pace and getting those great benefits.

4. Relieve stress

Day-to-day life is full of stressors. Power walking helps relieve stress by redirecting your attention from stressful situations and environments. Many people find leisurely walks have this effect, but for others it can help to focus your attention on a specific goal. Focusing on your form and posture, while also being mindful of tightening your abs and glutes, can help release tension while enjoying ample ‘me time.’ A power walk leaves you feeling renewed, refreshed and reenergized. Let’s face it – not everyone wants to go to the gym and lift weights or punch a punching bag to let off some steam. Since you’re already walking, why not use power walking to get that stress relief instead?

5. Improved conditioning and endurance

Power walking resulting in improved body conditioning and endurance. You’ll be walking faster and getting more intense than regular walking, which can help you work your way to a higher step goal! While a Pacer bodyweight workout might be a better full-body workout, power walking can at least help you engage other parts of your body. Your regular walks will feel like a breeze after you’re used to power walking.

6. It’s free!

The only gear you need to power walk is the gear you already have for walking. There’s no need for fancy equipment or gym membership fees. You can also power walk on pretty much any route that you walk normally, which means you don’t have to go out of your way to find somewhere to do it.

Tips for effective power walking

Woman power walking for fitness near the ocean
Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Here are some quick tips to get the most out of your power walking workout:

  • Set goals: Figure out how long you want to power walk every week and try to meet those goals. You can also use interval training to work power walking into your regular walks – just power walk as the fast intervals during your walk.
  • Get the right gear: The faster and more intense your walking routine is, the more important it is to have the right gear. Choose a comfortable attire and a shoe with a good arch support and a flat sole.
  • Walk the right path: Ensure you walk on a path or sidewalk so that you are visible to drivers and other road users. When walking in the dark, wear reflective clothing or carry a flashlight.
  • Watch for people: While you’re not going as fast as a jogger, you’re better off finding a path without a lot of people. While you’re focused on tightening your abs, you don’t want to worry about bumping into anyone. You can also test out your form without standing out as you might in a mall or store.
  • Motivate yourself: Add a little fun and motivation to your power walking by tagging a friend and listening to music, a podcast or an audiobook as you walk. You can also choose a scenic place to explore the outdoors while you power walk.
  • Watch for obstacles: As you power walk, watch out for uneven sidewalks, tree roots, and other obstacles to prevent accidents and injury. Try not to walk in places where you’ll find these obstructions as you may be too focused on form to notice them.

Power walking is popular among people of all ages because of its amazing benefits. From managing weight to improving heart health and strengthening bones and muscles, power walking is a lifechanging exercise technique. If you are looking for an effective, low-cost, and beneficial form of physical activity, then it’s time to consider power walking.

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