How Fast Should You Walk To Get Fit

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Before we get to the nitty gritty, we must tell you that there is no single answer as to how fast a person should walk to get fit and healthy.  

Why? Because everyone is different.  

In fact, your personal target will regularly change, as your levels of fitness increase, or at times, temporarily decrease.  

On average, though, the pace at which you should walk will be determined mainly by your heart rate, your lung capacity, and the strength of your legs.

nordic walking 2

Let’s face it folks, if you have always been active, then your overall level of fitness will be much higher than someone who has spent a few years on the couch watching TV.  

Either way, making the decision to walk is always a good one, and we want to provide you with helpful fitness information, as always.


Table Of Contents

Let’s dive in!


Understanding Your Heart Rate

measuring your heart rateYour normal heart rate is primarily determined by your level of fitness right now, and of course what age group you are in.

The one fact we know for certain is that if you walk slowly then this will not give your heart any type of true workout.  

Your heart needs to be exercised, and your blood needs to circulate as well, but you should not be over exerted either.

So if you plan to walk as your main method to get fit, then it is important to know what your heart rate is right now.

pedometer

The easiest way to find out is to own something like a heart rate monitor, or a pedometer, which makes this easy.  

Of course, you can still do this the old fashioned way, by taking your pulse (or having someone else take it), and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Now, based on many years of research, the way in which your heart functions has been broken down into certain measurements.

I have shown these in the table below.

This is a good way to understand how the impact of walking will change our breathing patterns, and also change the rate at which our hearts will beat.


Heart Rate Zones for Determining Walking Speeds

heart rate

Edit
Zone Stage Healthy Fitness Aerobic
Heart Rate 50-60% of your maximum heart rate 60-70% of your maximum heart rate 70-80% of your maximum heart rate
Description This should feel very comfortable to walk and exercise in.
A good way to measure this is that you should be able to talk as normal, but you might be breathing a little bit heavier than usual.
This is an exercise level of moderate intensity.
This is the perfect place to be for walking for weight loss, or walking to get fit.
You should still be able to talk but only in shorter bursts.
At this point you would be breathing hard and only able to speak the odd word or two.
Typically walkers would not get to this level though you may feel a little like this on some hills or steep climbs.

We all walk everyday, and the distance we walk will also vary. However, when you want to walk for fitness, I think that you do need to take it a little more seriously.  

No, you do not have to go over board, but I think it is useful to observe and understand how walking is driving up your levels of fitness.


Walking To Get Fit

walking to get fit

If you have decided that walking is a great way of getting fit, then we know that it will work.

I don’t want to sound like I am scolding anyone, but just to be clear, walking for fitness is very different than going for a stroll in the evening.

If you are overweight, feel sluggish, simply can’t run, or want to work towards some healthier type of lifestyle, then walking is a great place to start.

walking to get fit

You can start off with a short distance, and build up your speed. Then you can start to increase your distance, and also your speed.

The best way to do this is to have a plan, and then stick to it. You don’t need a lot of things to get started walking.

In fact, all you really need is a solid plan, and a decent pair of shoes. (see our homepage for suggestions)

If you have good shoes, you avoid the risks of blistered feet, and good walking shoes really help you with your stride pattern and support your ankles as well.

Then, you follow a plan which should start out with a short distance and build up to the level of fitness that you want to be at.  

fitness tracker man

Measure your heart rate as you go, and look to see improvements. We think you will be surprised!  

Then, start to increase the distance and in a matter of weeks, you really will feel like a new person.

We have done an article here on how many steps in a mile and how long it takes which we recommend that you check out as a really good guideline.

In your plan, always track your progress as it really is a great way of motivating yourself to get into the shape you want to be in.


But now, for some of your questions!

Can Walking Get You In Shape? (Part One)

can walking get you in shape

So, the million dollar question is, can walking get you fit? We are happy to say that the answer is yes!

By walking regularly it is possible to build up your “core” muscles – these are the ones in the back and abdomen.

More good news is that it could even help alleviate a beer gut, as well as tackling your bingo wings to boot.

walking to tone muscles

This is because walking is actually a very good exercise for the entire body.

The motion of walking tones the arms and legs whilst they move, but also gives a workout to your core, which basically prevents you from toppling over.


Which Muscles Does Walking Tone?

toned calves

When we walk we are utilising the tibialis anterior/ posterior, gastrocnemius and soleus, which form part of the back of the leg. It also gives your knees and thighs a wobble, so this means exercise for the rectus femoris, which are an integral part of the quadriceps.

Walking additionally tones up the obliques, vastus lateralise and medialis – something to muse on when you are burning through the miles in the rain this evening!

walking fast

And this is not all! It seems that getting your butt off the sofa actually helps your…butt! Walking also exercises your buttocks, so add this into the picture and you can see that walking refreshes more parts of you than you may have realized!

So, to recap; walking tones your calves, legs, thighs, bum, stomach, pelvis and arms.

When you look at it like that, you might as well toss your gym membership in the bin – because you can improve your muscle tone – for free!


Can You Lose Belly Fat Walking?

belly fat

Sometimes, you want to target one specific area of your body for improvement. And for many people, that is their jelly belly!

You probably need no reminder as to why you hate your love handles. But just in case you were growing to love the quickly rising muffin that’s poking out below your belt, here’s the reasons why you might want to shed it;

Belly fat is not just the same as fat spread anywhere else in the body. The bad news is that it detrimental to your overall health. Fat cells in the abdomen create hormones and other nasties that your body doesn’t want.

To cut a long story short, this excess weight carried around the stomach greatly boosts the dangers of having a stroke, heart attack, cancer – especially breast and colorectal cancer; as well as high blood pressure, gallbladder complications and of course diabetes.

fat walker

And it’s news you probably don’t want to hear, but the unhealthy side effects of a jelly belly don’t stop with your body. Unfortunately obese people may also have an increased risk of developing depression. This is because the hormone cortisol, which produces stress is related to belly fat.

So what officially qualifies as a big belly? More bad news is that it is probably not as big as you may think. As a rule of thumb, waist sizes in excess of forty inches for a man and thirty five for a woman are potentially problematic.

As mentioned, walking does tone the muscles, and this includes around the abdomen.

But unfortunately, the good news is compromised by the fact that as good as walking is for overall fat burning – and it is – your jelly belly is never going to completely disappear unless you change your diet for good.


Can Walking Get You In Shape? (Part Two) stretching old people

You may have heard about the advantages of walking three hours every day, but be unsure as to why.

Generally speaking, three miles is the amount an average person will cover in an hour, walking briskly – more about brisk walking further down!

Walking quickly for an hour every day is a great workout for the whole body, as mentioned above. As well as toning your muscles, walking three miles a day is a very good habit to get into for increased stamina.

 And if that is not enough reasons to break out your walking shoes, then don’t forget the calorie busting qualities of walking.

calorie busting

It is only an average, but a person weighing 150 pounds will burn off three hundred calories, walking briskly over an hour for three miles.

This is of course dependent on your actual weight to begin with. One of the odd quirks of losing weight is that the greater your body mass, the more you will burn off in the same time, versus someone of a lower weight.


So What Happens If I Walk 3 Miles A Day?

walking 3 miles

If you are finding it hard to envisage the actual impact burning a hundred calories has on your overall weight, then be mindful that it takes 3500 calories to make up one single pound of fat.

In other words, walking three miles every day will result in the loss of a pound in weight within twelve days.

If you are looking for any extra incentive to pick up your walking boots, then studies have shown that even a shorter (15 minute) walk at a reasonable speed (3 mph) when scheduled after a meal helps keep blood sugar in check for anyone  on the borderline of type 2 diabetes.

Your three mile walk is also as good as pills for many people who have suffered a stroke or heart attack – although please don’t ditch any treatment without the say so of your doctor!


Is 45 Minutes Of Brisk Walking Enough? alarm clock 45 minutes walk

It might be that you simply do not have the time to walk for an hour every day – so what about a shorter period?

So, how long do you have to walk for to be in with a chance of shedding your spare tire?

Well, according to some, you should walk for a minimum of three quarters of an hour to be able to burn fat.


How Fast Do You Need To Walk To Burn Fat?

fast walker

In order to burn your belly away by walking you need to be walking at a reasonable pace. However, it is easy to think that you should always go at your top speed.

In actual fact, you should be looking to pace yourself, to have the best chance of burning up stored fat. This means factoring in a warm up period.

Experts recommend actually walking more slowly (within the lower scale of your target heart beat) for the first ten minutes.

This tells your body to get ready for a longer exercise session.

So, don’t set off too fast to be in with the best chance of losing weight!


Is High Intensity Exercise Better Than Walking For Burning Fat?

press up

The short answer to this question is no. It may surprise you to learn that your high intensity workout, although great for other things, won’t cut through your body fat as much a lighter intensity exercise, like walking does!


So How Fast Is A Brisk Walk?

fitness tracker

Determining exactly how fast is a brisk walk is the question on everyone’s lips, but the answer is sadly not straightforward.

Although as a rule of thumb, three miles per hour is a decently brisk pace, as ever, it depends on who you are.

If you are having trouble determining whether you are walking at the right speed, why not undertake this fun challenge; try singing a song!

talking and walking

We know that it might seem  a strange test, but if you can sing the chorus to Bohemian Rhapsody whilst rounding a bend on a hill, then you are probably not going fast enough! Although depending on your vocal prowess, you might wish to get out into a wide open space before bursting into song… Just take your headphones off first!!

Ideally, your walking pace should be fast enough to facilitate a conversation, but too fast to be able to sing comfortably and still keep pace. 


How Should I Walk Briskly?

brisk walk

There are lots of ways you can pick up speed and achieve a brisk walking pace.

The golden piece of advice is that you should always maintain good posture.

So before hitting your stride, take the time to adjust your shoulders and back. Relax your shoulders so they tilt back straighten your back. You do not want your lower back to be strained at all during your workout.

Remember also to keep your head held high and try and direct your gaze into the horizon. This is going to ensure that your chest is opened properly and you can take proper breaths.

It is also going to mean that you don’t strain your neck or shoulders and aligns your hips better for walking.

posture in walking

When it comes to picking up speed, then don’t interfere with what is your natural length of pace.

This means concentrating on what feels right for you. In order to walk more briskly, you should be looking to increase the speed of each individual step.

Try and keep your arms at 90 degrees from your elbows, similar to the pose adopted by a sprinter.

This is going to make your arms swing better and therefore assist you quickening your pace as you go along. 

Remember to swing your arms energetically, as it will help boost your calorie burn.

Other techniques to help your walk-out go with a swing, is to push from your toes when you take a stride.

This helps to stretch your calf muscles and also elongates each step. In the long term, it is going to help you walk further and faster, as well as tone your muscles more effectively.

calves

For added motivation, why not invest in a pedometer (or even just switch on your phone!) By recording the number of steps you do, you can help work out your daily average and from there, you can increase the amount you walk each day.

We know that hitting 10000 steps can seem daunting at first, so don’t try and do too much all at once.

Start from your baseline average and look to increase it by a fifth every week, until you are at your target.


How Fast Should I Walk For My Age?

old couple walk

Did you know that you actually speed up in walking pace as you get older? Well, as you approach middle age, to be more precise.

Although seniors over the age of seventy may be well entitled to slow down, anyone in their forties shouldn’t assume the same!

In actual fact, people in the age category 40-49 walk faster than those in their twenties!

As you may imagine, there is also a discrepancy on the basis of gender.

women walking

 

There’s no prizes for guessing that men walk faster than women, but the difference between the sexes is far less than you may envisage.

The range of average varies on who you are, but a brisk pace may be considered between 2.5 and 4 mph.


What Is The Best Walking Speed For Seniors?

fast snail

For an older person, who has no additional needs and is in good physical shape, the speed considered brisk is 2.82 mph for a man in his seventies and 2.53 for a woman.

This drops to 2.17 mph and 2.1 mph respectively for men and women, as they enter into their eighties.

But if you cannot go at this pace, don’t worry too much, any walking exercise at all is a bonus by the time you hit eighty!


How Fast Can My Dog Walk?

walking fast doggie

Finally, one question which keeps coming up from readers is actually not about their own ideal walking pace, but what that of their four legged companion should be achieving!

If you are a dog owner, the chances are that Fido will be accompanying you on your journey of 5000 miles (oh, okay, three miles, but it might feel like 5000 miles for certain dog breeds).

corgi puppy walking

 Whilst there is an enormous discrepancy between dog breeds, the average walking speed for dogs is 1.5 mph for pooches under 30 pounds and up to human speed (3 mph) for the larger breeds.

There is more to the speed your dog should be walking at than their body weight, there is also the length of their legs to take into account as well as age and breed etc

But dogs are designed to be walked and walked regularly! This means approximately thirty minutes of trotting speed.

tired dog

Pay heed to the way your four legged friend is feeling – if he begins panting too much or drools then the dog may be dehydrated.

Never force an exhausted dog to walk further than they need to and allow for rest periods where necessary.

flat dog


Hit The Road, Jack!

open road

So what are you waiting for? The open road is just ready and waiting to take you!

Remember, for total beginners not to expect too much immediately and always limber up well for exercise.

Happy walking!