How Fast Is a Brisk Walking Pace?

Boost your average walking speed for more health benefits

man walking fast on coastal, mountain trail


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), a brisk walking pace is 2.5 to 4 miles per hour (mph). One study defines this as about 100 steps per minute for adults under age 60.

By contrast, an average easy walking pace is 20 minutes per mile (about 3 to 4 mph). A fast pace is 12 minutes per mile (5 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 raise your heart rate enough.

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

Brisk walking refers to your exertion rather than your speed. 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 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, which varies by age. The best 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.

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 vigorous walking technique using arm motion and a powerful stride can boost your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone. But if you are very 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.
  • Suck in your stomach. Keep your abdominal muscles firm but not overly tightened.
  • Tuck in your behind by rotating your hips forward slightly. This will keep you from arching your back.
  • 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 your toe at the end of your stride.

4. Walking Stride

  • Resist the urge to overstride when you are trying to walk faster. You get power in your stride by pushing off with your rear foot. 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. What lengthening occurs should be in putting more power into the back of your stride by keeping your foot on the ground long enough to give a powerful push-off with your toes.
  • Your hips should rotate with each stride front-to-back, not side-to-side. This hip motion will come naturally as part of a good stride and push off.

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 splint 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 your health risks and build fitness with brisk walking. Don't worry too much about your speed, as it is your heart rate that determines whether your pace is brisk enough to boost you into the moderate-intensity exercise zone. If you find that you can't get your heart rate high enough with walking, you may need to add running intervals or switch to running or cycling to get into the right zone.

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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Schimpl M, Moore C, Lederer C, et al. Association between walking speed and age in healthy, free-living individuals using mobile accelerometry--a cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23299. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023299

  2. American Heart Association. Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health. Updated 2015.

  3. 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. 

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