Nothing beats a casual, relaxing stroll down the street. But if you want to pick up the pace and learn how to walk faster so you can turn your stride into a more intense cardio workout, you certainly can.
A walk is considered “fast” when you get into the 3 to 5 mph range, says fitness trainer Jaclyn Willms. Going at a brisk pace — which could also be called power walking — offers plenty of benefits. It’s a great way to strengthen your legs, for one, and it also boosts your mood and improves your overall cardio health. But unlike a run or a jog, walking allows you to be active without putting a ton of strain on your body, says Nick Olsen, CPT, a certified personal trainer and owner of x365 Fitness. “We call this kind of cardio LIIT, or low-intensity training,” he tells bustle. “It has less impact on joints and ligaments and you can control your heart rate much easier.”
The target heart rate to aim for while upping your walk pace is 60 to 70% of your max heart rate, which usually falls within the 120 and 140 beats per minute (BPM) range. “To see the most benefit, make sure you maintain this for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes and under 60 minutes,” Olsen says. You can wear a fitness tracker to monitor your speed and heart rate, or you could gauge that data on a treadmill if you’re walking indoors.
As with any form of exercise, the only way to get better, or faster, or stronger is with practice. Go for a brisk walk three times a week and eventually you’ll be able to increase your pace. Here, experts share tips that’ll help you walk faster — incorporate them into your workout routine, and you’ll be zooming down the road in no time.
How To Walk Faster
1. Incorporate Strength Training
To pick up the pace, focus on training and strengthening the muscles that propel you forward, like the glutes, calves, and hamstrings. To zero in on these areas, Willms recommends doing exercises like glute bridges, forearm planks with toe taps, calf raises, and monster walks with a resistance band above your knees. “These will be extremely beneficial to putting a pep in your step,” she says.
2. Add In Agility Training
Agility training, with its focus on explosive movement and mobility, is another way to train your body to walk faster. Willms recommends trying exercises like box jumps, squat jumps, single-leg hops, frog jumps, and even skipping — each move will help train your muscles to move and respond quickly, which will contribute to a brisker walking stride.
3. Try Interval Training
It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to walk faster is actually by easing in, which is why trainers recommend building up your endurance through interval training — aka workouts that incorporate segments of more intense effort and periods of lighter work and rest. Willms recommends this treadmill routine:
- Walk at 3 mph, 0.5% incline for 2 minutes to warm up.
- Walk at 3.5 mph, 2% incline for 3 minutes.
- Walk at 3.5 mph, 0.5% incline for 2 minutes.
- Walk at 3.5 mph, 4% incline for 3 minutes.
- Walk at 3.5 mph, 0.5% incline for 2 minutes.
- Walk at 4 mph, 2% incline for 3 minutes.
- Walk at 3 mph, 0.5% incline for 2 minutes to cool down.
4. Stretch Regularly
Walking requires more flexibility than you might think, which is why it’s so important to have a stretch routine. Doing the cat-cow and runner’s lunge stretches are great places to start, Willms says, thanks to the way they release tension in the backside of the body.
“Incorporating mobility and flexibility exercises will also create muscle balance in your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders so you can continue to move with ease, fluidity, and strength with each stride,” she adds. Think of being more like Gumby and less like the Tin Man. “Muscle balance and alignment is not only important for increased performance, but also avoiding injuries and stiffness in the body.”
5. Focus On Form
A fast walk should look and feel different from your usual stroll down the street. By purposefully using proper power walking form, you’ll not only get the most benefit out of your walk, but it’ll also be easier to move forward.
To go faster, focus on walking in a heel-to-toe motion, with hands in loose fists at your sides, a straight back, and an engaged core. Willms recommends looking straight ahead as you propel yourself forward from the hips and glutes, occasionally checking in to see that your hips, knees, and feet are squared up.
This form will provide the maximum power output. “If you lose technique and begin to cave into poor posture — think rounding the spine and back and even shuffling through the ankles and feet — it will slow your pace down drastically,” Willms says. “This form is especially important to avoid injuries and overuse of low back, hamstrings, and knees.” Stay in alignment, and you’ll be better off in your power walk sesh.
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Rippe JM, Ward A, Porcari JP, Freedson PS. Walking for health and fitness. JAMA. 1988 May 13;259(18):2720-4. PMID: 3282085.
Jaclyn Wilms, trainer
Nick Olsen, CPT, certified personal trainer