Why Power Walking is Actually a Great Workout and How to Get Started
Power walking doesn’t have the cool quotient of running or high-intensity interval training, but maybe it should. The longest event in the Olympics, the 50 km race walk, is actually five miles longer than the marathon, the universal symbol of endurance. And when it comes to speed, the world’s best power walkers leave many competitive runners in the dust.
In 2017, Tom Bosworth set a world record when he power walked one mile in 5:31:08, a pace the average road runner can only dream of. But perhaps the coolest thing about power walking is how it can help almost anyone improve their health and fitness.
How to Start Power Walking
Compared to other forms of exercise, power walking is fairly easy to pick up. You only need a good pair of athletic shoes to get started, as power walking requires no equipment and can be done outside, on a track, or on a treadmill.
If your goal is to participate in competitive power walking, aka race walking, you’ll need to focus closely on your power walking form. At the risk of disqualification, a race walker is required to keep their front leg straight as it comes in touch with the ground. They must also keep one foot on the ground at all times — bounding changes the movement from power walking to jogging.
However, if you’re mostly interested in power walking to lose weight, get in shape, or just have fun, forget about competition technicalities (you probably won’t encounter any judges at the local track) and use these tips to maximize the benefits of power walking.
Power Walking Tips
- Invest in a decent pair of shoes that fit properly and offer the appropriate support.
- Prevent back pain and injury by maintaining proper posture. When power walking, keep your shoulders back, chest up, and eyes on the horizon.
- Bend your elbows and pump your arms as you power walk. Swinging the arms helps with balance and generates momentum.
- Aim for a challenging but sustainable power walking pace; your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to carry on a conversation.
- When power walking at night or early in the morning before sunrise, wear bright or reflective clothing so that you remain visible to drivers.
- Stay hydrated. Bring a refillable water bottle with you or plan your route around public water fountains.
Is Power Walking Better for You Than Running?
Power walking isn’t inherently better than running (and vice versa), but anyone new to exercise or prone to injury may want to opt for power walking over running. “Power walking doesn’t have the same stress as running,” says Jason Karp, PhD., owner of Run-Fit and author of The Inner Runner. For fitness rookies, a brisk power walk may be less intimidating than going for a run, even if the distance is the same. And, because power walking is a low-impact exercise, walkers are less likely to experience musculoskeletal injuries. “The chance of injury is negligible,” says Karp.
Is Power Walking a Good Way to Lose Weight?
In very simple terms, weight loss is a math equation: to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. Adding power walking to your everyday activities increases the number of calories you burn and, as a result, may help you drop a few pounds. In fact, you may have heard that walking, power walking, and other forms of steady-state exercise help you lose weight by tapping into stored fat for fuel.
While this is true, Karp argues that power walking isn’t necessarily the best way to lose weight for one simple reason. “Running is much better for weight loss because it burns a lot more calories in the same amount of time, since you cover more distance by running than by walking,” he says. That said, if power walking is appropriate for your current fitness level and/or it’s a movement you enjoy (and running is not), then this is the best form of exercise for you to lose weight. It’s important to find something you can do and enjoy to lose weight and maintain the weight loss.
What are the Benefits of Power Walking?
- Power walking is accessible. You don’t need a gym membership, equipment, or special instruction to start power walking.
- Because it’s a low-impact exercise, power walking is a more viable option for people who are new to exercise or struggle with injuries.
- Power walking for 150 minutes per week may your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers.
- By burning calories, power walking can help you drop excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
- Power walking is convenient and easy to fit into your schedule. Instead of driving, try power walking to appointments or running errands on foot.
- Power walking in nature may have a positive impact on your mental health.
What Is a Good Power Walking Pace?
It’s pretty simple: The faster you power walk, the more calories you’ll burn. The average person weighing 155 pounds who power walks for 30 minutes at 3.5 miles per hour will burn an estimated 133 calories. If that same person picks up the pace to 4 miles per hour, they can expect to burn 175 calories.