7 Benefits of Speed Walking

Speedwalking. Sri Maiava Rusden/Taxi/Getty Images

What are the effects of speedwalking compared with just strolling? For years I had simply been walking my own pace or the pace of my walking buddies. If I went walking with a faster friend, I had no technique to speed myself up.

That changed when I went to a walking clinic held by Rhonda Gates. Her tips had me walking faster in no time, trimming minutes from my miles. Walking faster feels better, more powerful and empowering.

  I now had more gears to shift into to pass other people on the sidewalk or trail. I still walk the same 10K and half marathon walks, only faster.

  • How to Walk Faster: Use these tips for posture, arm motion and foot motion to boost your walking speed.
  • How to Racewalk: Use Olympic racewalk technique for extreme walking speed.

What are the Benefits of Speed Walking?

What are the real benefits of speedwalking if you still just walk the same distance? James Sundquist, Director of Medical & Sports Music Institute provides this answer:

1. Raises the heart rate to a higher heart rate zone. Easy walking is often done in the light intensity zone, while speedwalking will raise your heart rate into the moderate intensity zone and could even boost it into the vigorous zone. Target Heart Rate
2. Shifts your workout goal from weight loss to increased fitness and endurance
3. Increases flexibility of muscles and joints as you use a wider range of motion.

4. Changes weight loss goal.
5. Enables you to finish same distance in less time.
6. Tones muscles.
7. Increases impact (This is a two-edged sword. More impact can introduce or aggravate injuries. On the plus side, can build stronger bones and slow down osteoporosis.)

Measuring Your Walking Speed

How can you know how fast you are walking?

You can use a variety of GPS fitness monitors or use a phone app or simply walk on a measured course while timing yourself
How to Measure How Fast You are Walking
Walking Pace Calculator: Find your pace and how long it will take you to walk various distances.

Calories Burned per Mile by Walking

Walking Calorie Calculator: Enter your walking speed, weight and distance to see how many calories are burned. This calculator based on MET research measuring the calories expended in different activities at different speeds.

Walking Calories by Speed

The following chart was built with numbers provided by two walking experts in their books. They may not match the numbers you will see in the MET walking calorie calculator. The numbers for walking up to 5 mph comes from Gary Yankers in Complete Book of Exercise Walking. Numbers for walking over 5 mph come from Howard Jacobson in Racewalk to Fitness. The numbers given were for a 150 lb. person. To extrapolate to other weights, an increase/decrease of 10% for every 15 pounds was used.

 100 lbs120 lbs140 lbs160 lbs180 lbs200 lbs 220 lbs 
2.0 mph 65 cal.80 cal.93 cal.105 cal.120 cal.133 cal.145 cal.
2.5 mph627488100112124138
3.0 mph60728395108120132
3.5 mph59718393107119130
4.0 mph59708194105118129
4.5 mph698297110122138151
5.0 mph7792108123138154169
6.0 mph8699114130147167190
7.0 mph96111128146165187212

What if I decide to start running instead? Maximum efficiency for walking is around 4 mph. Further speed leads to less efficiency and more calories burned. For runners, maximum efficiency is around 6 mph. At speeds less than 5 mph, runners burn more calories than walkers. At 5 mph, the caloric burn is nearly the same. At speeds greater than 5 mph, racewalkers burn 20% to 30% more calories.

More: Does Running Burn More Calories Than Walking?

If my main goal was to lose weight, I would be better off walking a moderate pace, one where I would be breathing a little harder but have no difficulty carrying on a conversation.

A moderate pace gives the body time to release and burn stored sugar and fat, rather than switching to anaerobic metabolism and burning only available sugars and muscle.
More: Walking in the Fat Burning Zone

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