Walking is good for you — this much we know. But does it matter how fast you walk when it comes to improving your health?
First a refresher:
Why is walking good for you?
Brisk walking has been shown to:
- Help you maintain a healthy weight
- Strengthen bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
- Develop balance and coordination
- Prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes
How fast do you need to walk?
You probably caught the key word above: brisk.
Research suggests that most people need to take about 100 steps per minute to meet the “brisk walking” mark. The pace, however, will vary depending on your fitness level.
- If you haven’t been very active or have been sick or injured, 100 steps may be too fast.
- If you exercise regularly, you’ll probably have to take more than 100 steps per minute to see benefits.
- Hand weights or wearing a weighted vest can help you burn up to 20% more calories if used correctly.
- Talk to your doctor before adding weights to your walking routine.
How do you know if you’re walking fast enough?
There are two easy ways:
Pay attention to your breathing
Using a modified Borg scale, you can use your breathing to tell how hard your body is working. You want to hit an exertion level around 6 — halfway between total stillness and exercising as hard as you can. At this level, you should have moved past heavy breathing (5) into a pace where talking is difficult (6) but you are not taking labored breaths or unable to talk (7/8).
Measure your heart rate
The second way to figure out how hard you’re exercising is to measure your heart rate.
- Calculate your target heart rate.
- Count your beats per minutes using a fitness tracker or by taking your pulse.
This method can be problematic: it can be hard to find and count your pulse with your fingers, trackers aren’t always accurate, and it won’t work if you’re on blood pressure medicine. But striving to hit a 6 on the Borg scale should do the trick.
The bottom line: Start walking. The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the healthier you’ll be.