Brisk walking

This post is the second in a series on walking.

I enjoy running. I’ve been running for 35 years and my ankles, shins and knees are fine. I run fast enough to raise my heart rate, but slow enough to protect my joints. On average, I run 45-50 minutes, two or three days a week.

Running is great but, it isn’t for everyone. The risk for injury when running is relatively high. My husband John and once-upon-a-time running partner, stopped running because his knees were bothering him. To compensate, we brisk walk together. When I want to run, I dash out on my own.

What is brisk walking? 

Brisk walking is an excellent alternative to running. When you brisk walk, you walk to increase your heart rate and breathing. It’s a great exercise for people of all ages.

Brisk walking is a moderate-intensity aerobic workout. It’s slower than race walking or jogging but faster than your usual pace and you will sweat and breath a little more heavily. Swinging your arms, bending your elbows and walking with a straight posture with your heals touching the ground first will give you the right momentum. After 10 minutes of walking, if you can speak in full sentences but not sing, your walk is brisk.

Determining the intensity of brisk walking

To obtain the benefits of brisk walking, your heart rate should be kept between 50-70 percent your maximum heart rate. You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 50, you subtract 50 from 220 and your maximum heart rate is 170 and 50-70 percent of that is between 85 and 119 beats per minute. Therefore the target heart rate of a 50-year-old while walking at a brisk pace would be between 85 and 119 beats per minute.

Beginners aim for the lower target zone of 50 percent and gradually build up the intensity. For a more intense exercise, the target heart rate is between 70-85 percent the maximum heart rate. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says that brisk walking occurs at a pace of 12 minutes per kilometre or 20 minutes per mile, though the pace and distance can vary depending on individual fitness levels.

To calculate your heart rate, take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply the number of beats by four. This will give your heart rate per minute. You can also use a device that calculates your heart rate. Walking pace calculators or speedometers and apps can determine your walking pace by inputting your distance and time.

Health benefits 

Brisk walking lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health and muscle strength. It boosts both morale and mood. Brisk walking is a low impact and weight bearing exercise, so it can strengthen your bones in a gentle and safe way. It can slow down bone loss in your legs, spine and hips. It can also prevent high cholesterol, diabetes  as well as colon and breast cancer.

If your goal is to lose weight, running is still the better activity. However, if you combine regular brisk walking with the right diet, you will shed weight.

How much brisk walk to keep fit?

Adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week to improve and maintain overall health and fitness. This means that you need to walk briskly for at least 22 minutes a day. You can also break down your activity into sections. For example, you can brisk walk for 11 minutes in the morning on your way to work and for 11 minutes on your way back home. Regardless of the amount of exercise you do in a day, keeping active outside your fitness time is essential to your health and well-being.

Ways to increase the intensity of brisk walking

Adding hand and/or ankle weights can slow you down but it will increase the intensity of your walk. It’s almost comparable to jogging without the weights. Using fitness or nordic poles can also give you a more intense cardiovascular and muscular workout without causing any stress on your joints.

Breathing fresh air while doing any kind of exercise is wonderful. If you can’t run outdoors, then brisk walk. It will raise your mental, physical and emotional health to the next level.

Photo courtesy of: Jeffrey
Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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