Recent research published in Biology Letters (2015) has found that varying your walking speed can affect the amount of calories you burn. The study was conducted by two engineering researchers from Ohio State University, who examined the amount of calories burned through different modes of walking. They concluded that changing your walking pace could increase your calorie burn by six to 20 percent.
“Measuring the metabolic cost of changing speeds is very important because people don’t live their lives on treadmills and do not walk at constant speeds. We found that changing speeds can increase the cost of walking substantially,” Manoj Srinivasan, coauthor of the study and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, noted in an Ohio State University press release.
Srinivasan together with Nidhi Seethapathi, author of the study and a doctoral fellow in mechanical engineering, both agree that the mere action of starting and stopping when walking — or during any activity — can increase the amount of calories burned. According to Seethapathi, changing your walking pace affects kinetic energy — your body and legs are forced to work slightly harder when stopping and starting and this expends more energy.
The study researchers analyzed the energy output of participants walking on a treadmill, measuring their calorie burn without changing speed. They then altered the experiment by asking participants to vary their walking speed but without varying the speed of the treadmill. This, according to the study authors, more accurately simulates real-world walking. The researchers then measured the difference in output between a consistent walking speed and varied walking speeds. They found that varied walking speeds burned more calories than a consistent walking speed.
According to Srinivasan, the amount of calories burned when walking speeds vary has never been measured in this way. The study could potentially change how calorie output is measured in walking and other sports activities.
Srinivasan offered some useful tips in the university press release. “Just do weird things. Walk with a backpack, walk with weights on your legs. Walk for a while, then stop and repeat that. Walk in a curve as opposed to a straight line.”
Walking is an excellent form of exercise, especially for those with limited mobility, or for those recovering from certain injuries or surgery. Walking a mere 30 minutes a day, five days a week can significantly improve your health, especially your heart health, according to the American Heart Association. Improving your heart health is vital these days, as heart disease continues to increase in the United States, and accounts for more than 600,000 deaths per year.
Walking may help you decrease your risk for developing cancer, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis. It can also help to curb belly fat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per week. Walking briskly is categorized by the CDC as a moderate form of exercise.
There are more than just physical benefits associated with walking. Moderate exercise has been found to decrease depression and stress, according to the CDC. Skipping the treadmill and taking a walk outside, whether it is in the park or on a trail, gives you the opportunity to connect with nature. Studies have shown that a connection with nature greatly benefits mental health.
Walking outside is especially beneficial for those of us who sit at a desk most of the day. I wake up early every morning and walk for approximately 30 minutes. With the results of this recent study in mind, I think I will start, stop and change my walking speed in order to optimize my calorie burn.
Are you ready to get outside and begin changing up your walking routine and pace?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.