How Fast Is a Brisk Walking Pace?

Learn how to measure your exertion and speed up your average walking pace

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Brisk walking is moderate-intensity exercise and has more benefits for fitness and reducing health risks than walking at an easy pace. But how fast do you have to walk for it to be considered a brisk walking pace? If you're not at that pace, learn what you can do to improve your walking technique so you can get the most benefits from your walking workouts.

Brisk Walking Speeds

A brisk walking pace is 3.0 miles per hour or about 20 minutes per mile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In International units, that is about 5 kilometers per hour or 12 minutes per kilometer. An average easy walking pace would be more than 20 minutes per mile, while a fast pace would be less than 15 minutes per mile.

However, if you already have a high fitness level, you may not be in a moderate-intensity exercise zone at at a 3.0 mph pace. You will probably have to walk at a pace of 4.0 mph (15 minutes per mile) to raise your heart rate enough.

If you wonder how fast you walk, you can use a walking pace calculator after measuring the time it takes you to walk a mile or a kilometer. Walking speedometers and apps can display your walking speed. They are based either on GPS or how fast a pedometer registers your step cadence.

Achieving Moderate Intensity Exercise

Brisk walking actually refers to your exertion, which is measured by your heart rate and breathing rate. For your walking pace to be brisk, you need to be breathing harder than usual.

While you should still be able to speak in full sentences, you shouldn't be able to sing.

The moderate intensity zone is defined by the CDC as being from 50 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. This varies by age. The best way to measure exertion is to take a heart rate reading and check the target heart rate chart to see whether you are in a moderate intensity zone for your age.

Tools to measure your heart rate include taking your pulse during exercise, using an app, using a pulse monitor or readout from your fitness band or smart watch, or wearing a heart rate monitor that detects it with a chest strap. Fitness bands and heart rate monitors will often show your target heart rate zone automatically and enable to you maintain a level of exertion that will keep you in that zone.

Speeding Up for Brisk Walking

If you find your usual walking pace doesn't reach the level of brisk walking and you want to speed up, you can work on your walking technique to increase your speed. Many people can increase their walking speed by using better posture, stride, and arm motion techniques. Wearing flexible athletic shoes and clothing that allows free movement will also help you speed up.

When you adopt a fast walking technique, you can expect to see a boost of 0.5 to 1 mph. You could take two to four minutes off your time to walk a mile. Walking coach Judy Heller says she often sees walkers increase their speed even more after she shows them good brisk walking technique.

A vigorous walking technique using arm motion and a powerful stride can boost your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone.

But if you are very fit, you may not be able to walk fast enough to raise your heart rate into the moderate intensity zone. You would have to switch to running or using a racewalking technique.

Walking Techniques for Faster Walking

You may need to slow down at first and ensure you have the right technique that will enable you to speed up and walk briskly. This technique can be broken down into posture, arm motion, step, and stride. Here are key points for each.

1. Walking Posture

  • Stand up straight, without arching your back.
  • Do not lean forward or back.
  • Keep your eyes forward and don't look down. Focus 20 feet ahead.
  • Your head should be up so your chin is parallel to the ground, reducing strain on your neck and back.
  • Relax your jaw to avoid tension in your neck.
  • Shrug once and let your shoulders fall and relax, with your shoulders slightly back.
  • Suck in your stomach. Keep your abdominal muscles firm but not overly tightened.
  • Tuck in your behind by rotating your hips forward slightly. This will keep you from arching your back.
  • Your head should remain level as you walk, all motion should take place from the shoulders down.

2. Walking Arm Motion

  • Bend your arms 90 degrees.
  • Move your arms in opposition to your feet. When your right foot goes forward, your right arm goes back and your left arm goes forward.
  • Your arm motion should be mostly forward-and-back, not diagonal. It should also be mostly level, without reaching up past your breastbone when your arm comes forward.
  • You should keep your arms and elbows close to your body rather than pointing outward.
  • On the backswing, think of reaching for a wallet in your back pocket. While you want a good backswing, don't exaggerate it and end up leaning.
  • Don't carry anything in your hands while walking.

3. Walking Foot Motion

  • Strike with your heel and roll through the step from heel to toe.
  • If you find that your foot slaps down without rolling through the step, you likely are wearing stiff-soled shoes. Switch to running shoes that are flexible in the forefoot.
  • Give a powerful push-off with your toe at the end of your stride.

4. Walking Stride

  • Resist the urge to overstride when you are trying to walk faster. You get power in your stride by pushing off with your rear foot. Your forward foot should strike closer to your body. Pay attention and see whether you are overextending your foot in front of your body.
  • You should aim to take more steps of your natural stride length rather than lengthening your stride. What lengthening occurs should be in putting more power into the back of your stride by keeping your foot on the ground long enough to give a powerful push-off with your toes.
  • Your hips should rotate with each stride front-to-back, not side-to-side. This hip motion will come naturally as part of a good stride and push off.

Brisk Walking Workouts

Practice your brisk walking technique as part of you daily walking workouts. When you are first changing your technique, you should build up your time gradually. Start by ensuring you have good walking posture and walk at an easy pace to warm-up for five minutes. Then you can practice your walking technique for 10 minutes before resuming an easy pace.

You can steadily build your time using your new technique, adding five minutes per week. You may experience some muscle soreness or shin splint pain when you change your walking technique or shoe model.

When you are able to walk briskly for 15 to 30 minutes, you can use your new brisk walking technique to build fitness and ensure you are getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week to reduce health risks.

A Word From Verywell

You can reduce your health risks and build fitness with brisk walking. Don't worry too much about your speed, as it is your heart rate that determines whether your pace is brisk enough to boost you into the moderate-intensity exercise zone. If you find that you can't get your heart rate high enough with walking, you may need to add running intervals or switch to running or cycling to get into the right zone.

Sources:

Measuring Physical Activity Intensity. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/index.html.

Physical Activity and Health. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm.

Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm.

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