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How Fast Do You Need to Walk to Boost Your Health?

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.

If you hit 100 steps and want to increase your intensity, consider running or walking with weights.

  • 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.

  1. Calculate your target heart rate.
  2. 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.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.

WellTuned provides inspiration and practical advice for healthy living.
WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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