Power Walking 101

As we stroll to work, through the supermarket, and around the neighborhood, many of us take walking for granted. Even so, this ubiquitous exercise has some amazing health benefits. A recent Harvard study showed that walking at a moderate pace just 30 minutes a day may cut the risk of heart disease in women by as much as 40 percent.

Power walking-also known as fitness walking-is a low-intensity approach to exercise that optimizes the benefits of casual walking. What's more, it burns calories and promotes heart health. Here, a guide to power walking and its advantages.


What Is Power Walking?

Power walking is essentially casual walking with an attitude. The average person walks at a speed of approximately three miles per hour (mph). By adding power to your stride-by changing your focus, technique, and pace-you can pick up your pace to five mph or more.

Instead of focusing on the lower half of the body, as casual walkers tend to do, power walkers utilize their entire body, including the arms, abdominals, and lower back. Common mistakes include over-striding and over-swinging the arms, which can result in injuries.

Getting Started

These three tips can add some pep to your step:

  • Posture. Walk upright, chin up and gazing ahead, not at the ground. By looking ahead, your body will naturally follow at a quicker rate. Keep your shoulders and chest relaxed while tightening your buttocks and abs, which will work those areas while you walk.
  • Arms. Keep your arms bent at slightly less than 90 degrees. Let your arms swing from front to back, not from side to side. The momentum of your arms will lessen the burden on your legs and incorporate your upper body into the activity.
  • Concentration. Try to focus on your paces and your breathing. Step heel to toe, and breathe naturally. Your breaths should increase, but you should not be out of breath.

What Are the Benefits?

The benefits of power walking are similar to those of running, but the exercise is less demanding on the body. Some of the advantages include:

  • Heart Health. Daily physical activity can benefit people of all ages. And according to the American Heart Association, low-intensity exercise, such as power walking, can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Weight Loss. A 150-pound person, walking at a brisk pace, approximately four mph, for 30 minutes can burn 183 calories. In addition, power walking regularly can help control weight in the mid-body region, where doctors believe excess pounds are the most dangerous. Power walking can also build muscle, which will enable you to burn more calories at rest.
  • Mental Health. Studies have found that walking allows the body to release adrenaline and endorphins. Adrenaline plays a key role in your nervous system and in boosting your mood, while endorphins help create a sense of happiness and relieve pain.
  • Memory. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study that found women who performed a moderate amount of activity 30 minutes a day performed significantly better on cognitive tests (those that involve logical thinking, reasoning, and memory) than women who walked less than one hour per week.
  • Bone Health. Power walking is a weight-bearing exercise-meaning the body is working against gravity. (Exercises such as swimming and cycling are generally considered non-weight bearing.) Weight-bearing exercises have been shown to help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
  • Sleep. As if having a stronger heart, mind, bones, and body aren't enough, power walking can also promote a better night's sleep. A study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that low- to moderate-intensity exercise in the afternoon can help deepen sleep in the evening as well as cut the time it takes you to fall asleep.

Extra Motivation

If the litany of health benefits listed above still can't get you walking, check out these reasons to start stepping.

  • Unlike pricey gym memberships and workout equipment, taking a stroll around the neighborhood is free.
  • Power walking helps you see more of your surroundings. Instead of limiting your view to what can be glimpsed through the car's windows, walking can expose you to places you haven't seen.
  • Power walking can enable you to spend more time with your friends. In addition to the social perks, having a walking buddy means you may be less likely to slack off. Push each other and work to achieve a new goal every week.
  • It can increase your stamina. Keep track of how far you can go in a certain amount of time. You might find that the two-mile walk took 45 minutes the first week, but several weeks later, you may have shaved off 15 minutes or added a half a mile. Seeing the progress over a period of time can motivate you to keep going.