How Fast You Should Walk for Fitness and Weight Loss

Woman walking outside

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

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Whether you are walking for fitness or weight loss, your walking pace will be determined by your individual capabilities. If you're looking to boost your aerobic fitness, you should walk fast enough to achieve moderate intensity in your workout. This is sometimes called walking at a brisk pace. The speed of a brisk pace is different for each person as it depends on your heart rate, age, and level of fitness.

A brisk walking pace can range from 13 to 20 minutes per mile, or from 3.0 mph to 4.5 mph. At this pace, you should be breathing noticeably harder, but able to speak in full sentences.

If your walking pace is 20 minutes per mile, it may be either fast enough to be moderate-intensity exercise or too slow. If you are more aerobically fit, a 20-minute-pace might only be light-intensity exercise. You can only determine this by understanding what the moderate-intensity zone feels like and what heart rate will put you into that zone.

Let Heart Rate Zones Judge Your Walking Speed

When you are first getting used to knowing what the different exercise zones feel like, it is useful to take your pulse or wear a fitness tracker or heart rate monitor that shows your heart rate continuously. The zones to aim for are:

  • Healthy Heart Zone: 50% to 60% of your maximum heart rate. This is an easy and comfortable zone to exercise in. You will be able to carry on a full conversation, although you may be breathing a little heavier than usual. This is the lower end of the moderate-intensity zone.
  • Fitness Zone: 64% to 76% of your maximum heart rate. In this zone, you are attaining moderate-intensity exercise. You are breathing heavier but can still speak in short sentences. You can talk, but you can't sing. This zone should be your goal for most of your walking workouts for fitness or weight loss.
  • Aerobic Zone: 77% to 93% of your maximum heart rate. At this intensity, you are breathing very hard and only able to speak in short phrases. Workouts at this heart rate are vigorous-intensity exercise.

Finding Your Best Heart Rate

What pulse rate matches each zone depends on your age. Use a target heart rate chart to find the beats per minute for you in the different heart rate zones.

You will need to take your pulse or monitor your heart rate while walking to find the right speed. Here are different methods to use:

  • Taking your pulse is the good old-fashioned way to find your heart rate, but it can be tricky to do unless you slow or stop (which also slows your heart rate). There are apps that can measure your heart rate by using your cell phone camera flash.
  • Pulse monitors are gadgets that allow you to place one or two fingers on sensors to read your pulse. Some automatically calculate your heart rate percentage of maximum based on your age. But you may have to slow down or stop to get a good reading, and the readings aren't always accurate.
  • Activity trackers and smartwatches with LED wrist heart rate sensors have become more common. These are not always as accurate as a chest strap heart rate monitor but may suit your needs for an approximate exercise zone.
  • Heart rate monitors use a chest strap to give you a continuous heart rate readout. They transmit to a wrist monitor or a mobile app and have a variety of features including the percentage of maximum heart rate and alarms for when you are in or out of your target zone. These monitors are usually more accurate than the other options.

Walking the Best Speed to Be in the Fitness Zone

You may need to learn how to walk faster to get your heart rate into the fitness zone. Using good walking posture, back-and-forth arm motion, and rolling through each step from heel to toe can not only speed you up but will also help you breathe better and walk easier.

As you increase your fitness, you may not be able to walk fast enough to get into the moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity zones. Adding hills or stairs may increase your intensity at a lower speed. Using fitness walking poles can also increase your heart rate at the same speed.

If you still can't achieve a higher heart rate by walking, you can try using the racewalking technique or switch to jogging intervals to get into a higher heart rate zone.

Measuring Your Walking Speed

There are different methods of measuring your walking speed. Cell phone apps and running speedometer watches generally use GPS, which can be inaccurate and won't work indoors on a treadmill. Fitness bands and pedometers may use your step cadence, which can vary if your stride length is different from what is expected. You can verify the accuracy of these readings by walking a measured mile and calculating your walking speed and pace.

Can You Burn More Calories by Walking Faster?

Yes, although the calories you burn walking will also be affected by the distance you walk, your weight, and many other factors. You may be able to burn more calories in a set amount of time if you walk faster. If you add hills or running intervals you can burn more calories for a set distance.

A Word From Verywell

Understanding how fast you should walk will help you get the full fitness and health benefits of the time you spend walking. Walking briskly for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week may help you reach your goals. Build a walking schedule and enjoy your workouts.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of physical activity.

  2. American Heart Association. Know your target heart rates for exercise, losing weight and health.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Target heart rate and estimated maximum heart rate.

  4. Pasadyn SR, Soudan M, Gillinov M, et al. Accuracy of commercially available heart rate monitors in athletes: a prospective studyCardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2019;9(4):379-385. doi:10.21037/cdt.2019.06.05

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.