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Adding power to your walking routine
By Lisa Jones
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Adding power to your walking routine

Autumn is a great time for walking in Iowa – the air is cool and crisp and normally, there’s no hint of snow in the forecast. All it takes is layered clothing, comfortable walking shoes and a dose of desire or motivation to get out there and get moving!

Many people have already added walking to their schedules as a matter of routine. Some walk daily – or almost daily – for exercise and enjoyment. If you are one of these people, do you ever wonder how you might bump up the intensity of your walk and turn it into a more robust activity?

There are many ways to develop your walk into a more effective workout. We have all seen the people walking with arms swinging wildly, their stride almost resembling a tight waddle. This is often known as power walking and is, for the most part, NOT the best form of exercise for most people. These exaggerated movements can often cause injury over a short period of time.

More effective is a form of walking often referred to as fitness walking. Fitness walking burns almost the same calories as running, yet it is much easier on the body. Most fitness walkers average about 13 to 15 minutes per mile, therefore burning more calories than casual walkers, who average from 17 to 20 minutes per mile. In addition, fitness walking tones muscles in the buttocks, thighs, hips, shoulders, upper back and abs.

Assuming you are an average walker, like most of us, you will need to build up your stamina and speed over time. According to Selene Yeager, a fitness writer for "Prevention" magazine, you should work toward a pace of about 4.5 miles per hour for maximum calorie burning. "Fitness scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered that by walking at this pace, you can burn almost as many calories (201 per 30 minutes, based on a 140-pound woman) as someone jogging at about the same speed (223 calories per 30 minutes) because you’re using the same amount of energy to stay in motion," she said. "Of course, 4.5 mph is a fast walk; if you haven’t been walking regularly, you shouldn’t expect to hit that speed right out of the gate. Start at a slower pace and use the same fat-burning power walking form to work up to this speed."

For reference, at 4.5 miles per hour, it will take you approximately 13 minutes to walk a mile. The faster your pace, the more calories you will burn and the better aerobic workout you will get. But if all you can do at this point is a 20-minute mile (approximately three miles per hour) that’s fine. Just keep walking and, within a few weeks, you will notice improvement.

Yeager says to aim for four to six power walks a week. Start with 20 or 30-minute walks and build up as you wish for maximum benefit. Also, remember it’s important to spend a little time to warm up and cool down with a slower pace and some gentle stretching.

Learn more.

Be sure to talk with your health care provider prior to starting any exercise routine. If you need to find a provider, visit and click on "Find A Clinic" in the upper right corner of the page. This section of the website contains information about all of the Mercy Clinics and available providers.


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