Beginner’s Guide To Power Walking

Fitness, Walking Workouts, Beginner Guides

By: // December 11, 2018

Question: what is low impact, adds years to your life, is recommended by nearly every doctor and is suitable for people in almost any physical condition? Answer: walking!

If you haven’t pursued the world of walking, or more specifically power walking, it might just be your time!

With countless studies proving its effectiveness in benefitting your health, learning how to power walk will keep you moving well into your future.

Use these links to quickly navigate this guide:

Power Walking Benefits

Middle aged couple power walking outdoors

So with all the options for exercise, why choose power walking? So many reasons!

  1. Low Impact: Power walking gives you a great heart rate boost without wreaking havoc on your joints and connective tissue. This means you are less likely to have either acute or chronic injury from wear and tear that comes with time.
  2. Calorie Burn: Depending on the speed at which you move, power walking can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories per hour or more, depending on your size and how fast you walk.
  3. Heart Health: Power walking is a cardiovascular exercise. It works the heart and lungs and keeps you in good cardiovascular condition.
  4. Anytime, Anywhere: No equipment or special outfit is needed to walk! That means you can do it nearly anytime and anywhere. Obviously comfortable clothes and good shoes are important. We’ll discuss that later. But for the most part, walking is hassle-free!
  5. Suitable For Everyone: Obvious injuries or illnesses aside, walking is great for all ages, genders, sizes and fitness levels. You choose your terrain and your speed based on what you are capable of, but nearly anyone can head out for a walk and experience the benefits!
  6. Decreased Disease and Illness: Studies show that power walking can help decrease your risk of multiple maladies. Harvard Medical School says that walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress, just to name a few! Not sold yet? They also say walking can help reduce your risk of dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer and even erectile dysfunction!

Related: 8 Essential Stretches For Walkers

Power Walking Basics

Now that your convinced power walking is for you, let’s get started. Of course, you are quite capable of heading out the door right now and going for a walk, but there are important things to consider as you prepare to make this a regular part of your life.

Let’s talk about how to power walk properly.

  1. Warm-Up: Proper warm-up is crucial for all types of exercise including walking. Begin slowly. Walk for a few minutes and then consider some active stretches such as 10 walking lunges and 10 hip circles. Studies show that a proper warm-up helps prevent injury.
  2. Remember Moderation. The biggest mistake people make is biting off more than they can chew. Walking too far too quickly will lead to increased risk of injury and soreness. If you are new to power walking, shoot for 15-20 minutes or less on your first endeavor. Do this for the first few times out. After a week of regular walking, increase your time to 20-25 minutes. After a couple weeks, you will be up to a solid 30-minute walk and you can take it from there!
  3. Start Slowly. Just as walking too far your first time out can lead to injury or soreness, so can waking too fast. Make sure your first walk is moderate in pace. A good way to judge? Walk with a buddy and carry on conversation. If you can talk the entire time, you’re probably at a good pace. Use the same measurements for speed that you used for increasing your pace. After about a week at your starting pace, pick it up just a little. You may even want to pick it up for a minute or two and then slow back down, repeating this throughout the walk. This will be a good way for your body to adapt.
  4. Stretch At The End: If you only have 30 minutes to exercise, plan a 25-minute walk and save 5 minutes to stretch at the end. Stretching your calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads and hips will help prevent soreness and keep you free from common walking injuries such as plantar fasciitis or calf pain.

Power Walking Shoes

Close-up of woman tying tennis shoes outside

Proper footwear will be your best friend as you start a new power walking program.

You want to find something that is not only comfortable and cushioned, but also supportive for your foot structure. Your foot might roll inward or outward as you walk, so the support in the shoe should match that.

The best idea would be to find an athletic shoe store that has professionals who will help. This person should put you on a treadmill and watch you walk to help determine your foot pattern to choose the proper shoe.

In addition, you’ll want to be sure there is at least a thumbs width of space between your toes and the front of the shoe.

Power Walking Vs. Running

A common question about power walking is whether it can rival it’s next closest competitor: running.

Which is better? Which should you choose?

Of course, the answer is that both are great forms of exercise, but the benefit of choosing walking over running is pretty significant, namely: longevity!

As discussed before, unlike running, walking is low impact.

Running exhibits twice as much force on your body every time you land. This means more injury and more likelihood that you’ll have joint issues in your knees, hips or back.

Walking will provide longevity to your exercise life and keep you moving well into your later years!

The more wear and tear you exert on your body, the more likely you are to aggravate joints and cause pain down the road.

Running might burn a few more calories and get you more miles for the time spent, but in the long run walking will outlast running for the aging body!

Power Walking For Weight Loss

Speaking of burning calories, power walking is great for weight loss.

Like any form of exercise, you need to couple it with a healthy eating plan to truly see the weight loss occur.

Ideally, you will also sneak in some strength training throughout the week. However, power walking can burn up to 200 or more calories per 30-minute walk. That’s a great calorie burn for weight loss efforts.

The key to walking for weight loss is to walk fast. Walk like you are in an airport and late for a flight. Be in a hurry.

How fast should you walk? Read on.

Walking Speed

Woman with hat looking at fitness watch

According to a study by Washington University in St. Louis, walking at 4.5 miles per hour can burn around 200 calories for an average 140-pound woman.

On the other hand, walking too slowly might only net you 100 calories or less for 30 minutes. Keep your intensity up.

Of course, this is something you’ll need to achieve with time. Don’t try to go out and walk 4.5 miles per hour on your first walk.

Work your way up to it. Interval training is a good way to increase your speed gradually.

Walk at a more comfortable pace for a while, then pick up your pace to something fast for 30 seconds or a minute before slowing back down to your original pace.

Do this a few times, adding more intervals the more you get used to walking. Soon, you’ll be able to hold a faster pace for more time.

Most fitness watches or trackers will tell you how far and how fast you are walking. This can be an invaluable tool to help you.

However, to track your pace on your own, measure a one-mile course using your car. Now walk that same course and time yourself. Here are your results:

20 minutes- 3 mph (this is a good starting pace)

15 minutes – 4 mph (this is a solid fast walk)

13 minutes – 4.5 mph (this is a challenging power walk)

12 minutes – 5 mph (this is pretty fast for almost anyone)

Remember that you are going to make progress. Don’t be discouraged if you have a slower pace to begin.

Just use that pace and stay consistent with your walks. You will become more fit and be able to walk faster the longer you stay with it.

Proper Power Walking Form 

Power walking recruits all kinds of muscles in your body. In order to prevent overuse injuries or poor form hazards, here are some good power walking form tips for you to follow.

  1. Good Posture: Stand tall. Pull your tummy in like you are zipping up tight jeans. Keep your head up and shoulders pulled back but relaxed. Lift your chest. 
  2. Use Your Arms: Good arm motion will help you burn 5-10% more calories. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and keep elbows pulled in close to your body. Pump your arms straight forward, not diagonally, and be sure they stay low, not going past your breastbone. Make fists, but relaxed not tight.
  3. Foot Motion: Your footsteps should be a heel to toe motion. Your heel hits first then your foot rolls through your toe.
  4. Keep Your Strides Natural. Don’t try to speed up by taking giant steps or an unnaturally long stride. Instead, lengthen your stride by your back foot by keeping that foot on the ground longer and giving you a more powerful stride forward. Don’t overthink it.

Try our Power Walking Workout Video To Tone Every Zone! Get Healthy U TV workout video with play button

Power Walking Tips

Here are some other helpful tips to keep in mind as you learn how to power walk:

  1. Choose Comfy Clothes: This one probably seems obvious, but the more appropriate the clothing the more comfortable you will be. And the more comfortable you are, the longer you will last. Choose not only based on the temperature you are walking in, but the fabric of the clothing as well. Moisture-wicking fabrics designed for exercise will help your temperature stay regulated as well as stave off chaffing under your arms or between your legs. And don’t forget to dress in layers. Walking warms you up quickly so having a layer to shed is a good idea.
  2. Make A Plan: Don’t just open the door and go or hop on the treadmill without knowing what your intentions are. Whether you set a timer on your watch or plan a route on which you know the distance, be smart about your walk. Monday might be your 30-minute power walk. Tuesday you might choose to do interval walking to the park and back. Goals help you progress.
  3. Follow Good Walking Form: Walking uses more than just your legs. Keep your shoulders back and chest lifted to avoid hunching forward. Pull your abs in as you walk and keep good posture. Leave your arms free from clutter so that you are able to swing them next to your side.
  4. Find a Walking Buddy. There’s nothing like a friend waiting on the corner to keep us accountable. Walking buddies can encourage one another and keep each other going. In addition, a walking buddy gives you incentive to go farther and make the whole workout more pleasurable.
  5. Track Your Progress. Whether you use a fitness app, smart watch or other fitness trackers or go the old-fashioned route and write it on your calendar, it is important to track your progress. Not only does this help you increase your pace and mileage, but it also motivates you as you see how much better you’re getting! Aim for four to six power walks a week. Beginners should strive to stride for 20 to 30 minutes. More experienced walkers can step it up to 45- or even 60-minute sessions (when time allows). Remember the tip about starting slowly! A good rule of thumb is to gradually increase your walks by 10% each week. So if you start with 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week, you’re walking 80 minutes a week. This means you would add 8 minutes to your next week. Remember that your workout time includes a few minutes to warm up and a few minutes to cool down and stretch.

READ THIS NEXT: How To Regain Flexibility Over 50

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