Walking is one of the basic modes of exercise without equipment. When the weather is cool, there is no better time to enjoy a brisk walk. Physical activity of any kind, including walking, has many benefits. Designing a walking program and realizing its benefits versus other modes of exercise might help you decide to go for that brisk walk when you can’t get to the gym.
One of the primary reasons we exercise is weight management. Walking tends to be seen as a low-intensity activity burning few calories. However, just like any activity, the intensity is up to the exerciser. Let’s breakdown calories burned while walking for you math and science buffs. This formula assumes a flat surface, but does give you an idea of how much energy you use during a walk.
Step 1: Convert mph to meters per minute by multiplying mph by 26.8.
Speed x 0.1 + 3.5 = VO₂
Step 2: Convert your weight in pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.2.
VO₂ x Weight x Minutes x 0.001 x 5 = Calories
A 150 pound person walking 3mph for 30 minutes…..
80.4 x 0.1 + 3.5 = 11.54
11.54 x 68.2 x 30 x 0.001 x 5 = 118 Calories
In this example, a modest 3mph pace is used. When you walk, walk with a purpose to increase heart rate and calories burned. Most can walk between 3 and 4mph before an increase in pace necessitates jogging.
Those that choose running as their exercise of choice may find it interesting that walking 2 miles and running 2 miles aren’t that far apart in calories burned. Jogging and running definitely take more effort, but you still are taking your body over a 2-mile distance. Using the previous example and picking up the walking pace to 4mph, and comparing that to running 6mph, there is less than a 100-calorie difference between the walker and runner over 2 miles. The running formula is a bit different and accounts for the extra stress, the push off, and landing from the ‘flight’ portion of each stride. Some find it surprising that running for 20 minutes could burn less than 100 calories more than walking for 30. With this in mind, walking could be helpful in stressing your joints less while still burning calories.
From the formula, in addition to speed, the factor that increases calories burned is body weight. The more you weigh, the more energy it takes to complete a distance. You may attempt to apply this concept by wearing ankle weights or carrying hand weights during walks. Although that seems simple enough, the addition of weight at the end of your limbs may stress joints and cause discomfort and eventually injury. Shoulders and posture muscles get the brunt of the stress with hand weights and hips from ankle weights. Using less than 3-pound hand or ankle weights is recommended. In order to add weight to your walks, you can try a weight vest. Keep in mind, the additional calories burned, again, aren’t that significant even with 15-20lbs added. Over time, however, an additional 10-15 calories per 30-minute walk will add up.
When considering different modes of exercise, finding something that you will maintain is the number one priority. Although the discussion has focused on calories, weight loss has much more to do with what you eat than how you exercise. Exercise is important to overall health and does compliment weight loss, of course, but do not go into an exercise plan with expectations of significant weight loss without changing how you eat. Weight management, on the other hand, is affected greatly by exercise. Those that maintain a consistent exercise routine are more successful in maintaining weight loss they achieve.
When the gym isn’t an option or you need a day off from your normal running routine, try going for a walk. Remember to make it brisk to get more cardiovascular and calorie burning benefits while giving your joints a break.