How Fast Is a Brisk Walking Pace?

Boost your average walking speed for more health benefits

man walking fast on coastal, mountain trail

Verywell

Brisk walking is a moderate-intensity exercise and has more benefits for fitness and reducing health risks than walking at an easy pace. How fast you must walk for it to be considered a brisk pace depends on your fitness level. Learn what you can do to improve your walking technique so you can boost your average walking speed.

Brisk Walking Speeds

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the range for moderate intensity activity is 2.5 to 4 miles per hour (mph). A moderate pace is 2.5 to 3.5 mph, while a brisk pace is 3.5 to 4 mph.

One study defines a minimum speed for moderate intensity as about 100 steps per minute for adults under age 60 (about 3 mph). If you already have a high fitness level, you may not be in a moderate-intensity exercise zone at a 3 mph pace. You will probably have to walk at a pace of 4 mph (a 15-minute mile) to get into the zone.

You can calculate your walking pace after measuring the time it takes you to walk a mile or a kilometer. Pedometers and apps that use GPS or step cadence also can be used to display your walking speed.

Achieving Moderate-Intensity Exercise

Since the speed at which you achieve moderate intensity will be different for everyone, focus on your exertion instead. Exertion is measured by your heart and breathing rate. For your walking pace to be brisk, you need to be breathing harder than usual. While you should be able to speak in full sentences, you shouldn't be able to sing.

The moderate-intensity zone is defined by the American Heart Association as being from 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, which varies by age. The most accurate way to measure exertion is to take a heart rate reading and check a target heart rate chart.

There are many tools that you can use to find your heart rate during exercise, from taking your pulse by hand to using an app, pulse monitor, fitness band, smartwatch, or chest strap heart rate monitor. Fitness bands and heart rate monitors will often show your target heart rate zone automatically and enable to you maintain a level of exertion that will keep you in that zone.

However, you can still track your exertion without any equipment by using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Evaluate yourself on a scale of 6 (no exertion at all; sitting quietly) to 20 (maximum exertion, as in a hard sprint). Use measures like whether you are sweating and how heavily you are breathing to help determine your exertion level.

Speeding Up for Brisk Walking

If you find your usual walking pace doesn't reach the level of brisk walking and you want to speed up, you can work on your walking technique to increase your speed. Many people can increase their walking speed by using better posture, stride, and arm motion. Wearing flexible athletic shoes and clothing that allows free movement will also help you speed up.

When you adopt a fast walking technique, you can expect to see a boost of 0.5 to 1 mph and take two to four minutes off your time to walk a mile. Walking coach Judy Heller says she often sees walkers increase their speed even more after she shows them good brisk walking technique.

A walking technique using arm motion and a powerful stride can boost your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone or even beyond it into the vigorous zone. If you are extremely fit, you may not be able to walk fast enough to raise your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone. You would have to switch to running or using a racewalking technique.

Walking Techniques for Faster Walking

You may need to slow down at first and ensure you have the right technique that will enable you to speed up and walk briskly. This technique can be broken down into posture, arm motion, step, and stride. Here are the key points for each.

1. Walking Posture

  • Stand up straight, without arching your back.
  • Do not lean forward or back.
  • Keep your eyes forward and don't look down. Focus 20 feet ahead.
  • Your head should be up so your chin is parallel to the ground, reducing strain on your neck and back.
  • Relax your jaw to avoid tension in your neck.
  • Shrug once and let your shoulders fall and relax, with your shoulders slightly back.
  • Draw your navel in toward your spine. Keep your abdominal muscles firm, but not overly tightened. Keep breathing; don't hold your breath.
  • Your head should remain level as you walk, all motion should take place from the shoulders down.

2. Walking Arm Motion

  • Bend your arms 90 degrees.
  • Move your arms in opposition to your feet. When your right foot goes forward, your right arm goes back and your left arm goes forward.
  • Your arm motion should be mostly forward-and-back, not diagonal. It should also be mostly level, without reaching up past your breastbone when your arm comes forward.
  • You should keep your arms and elbows close to your body rather than pointing outward.
  • On the backswing, think of reaching for a wallet in your back pocket. While you want a good backswing, don't exaggerate it and end up leaning.
  • Don't carry anything in your hands while walking.

3. Walking Foot Motion

  • Strike with your heel and roll through the step from heel to toe.
  • If you find that your foot slaps down without rolling through the step, you likely are wearing stiff-soled shoes. Switch to running shoes that are flexible in the forefoot.
  • Give a powerful push-off with the ball of your foot and your toes at the end of your stride.

4. Walking Stride

  • Resist the urge to overstride when you are trying to walk faster. Your forward foot should strike closer to your body. Pay attention and see whether you are overextending your foot in front of your body.
  • You should aim to take more steps of your natural stride length rather than lengthening your stride. When lengthening occurs, it should be behind you by keeping your back foot on the ground longer and then powerfully pushing off with your toes.

Brisk Walking Workouts

Practice your brisk walking technique as part of your daily walking workouts. When you are first changing your technique, you should build up your time gradually. Start by ensuring you have good walking posture and walk at an easy pace to warm up for five minutes. Then you can practice your walking technique for 10 minutes before resuming an easy pace.

You can steadily build your time using your new technique, adding five minutes per week. You may experience some muscle soreness or shin pain when you change your walking technique or shoe model.

When you are able to walk briskly for 15 to 30 minutes, you can use your new brisk walking technique to build fitness and ensure you are getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

A Word From Verywell

You can reduce health risks and build fitness with brisk walking. Don't worry too much about your speed, as it is your exertion (RPE or heart rate) that determines whether your pace is brisk enough to boost you into the moderate-intensity exercise zone.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of physical activity. Updated February 25, 2020.

  2. Tudor-Locke C, Han H, Aguiar EJ, et al. How fast is fast enough? Walking cadence (steps/min) as a practical estimate of intensity in adults: a narrative review. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(12):776-788. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097628

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring physical activity intensity. Updated January 29, 2020.

  4. American Heart Association. Know your target heart rates for exercise, losing weight and health. Updated January 4, 2015.

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.