What Is Power Walking and Why It’s Good for You

Two women going for a walk together.

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As one of the simplest and least expensive forms of exercise, power walking enhances cardiovascular health, burns calories, and promotes overall wellness. It also is a weight-bearing physical activity you can do anywhere with many people starting their walking regimen right out their front door.

To ensure the exercise is beneficial to your health and well-being, it is important to maintain proper posture and use an appropriate power walking stride. Here is what you need to know about power walking including its benefits, techniques, and safety tips.

What Is Power Walking?

Power walking is more than walking at a moderate, brisk pace. In power walking, you should maintain a walking speed in the upper range of what a normal walk is for you. In other words, you are typically walking about 4 to 5 mph or at least a speed of a 15-minute mile up to 12-minute mile.

This style of walking also includes a wide variety of techniques, such as a shorter stride, a rapid foot cadence, and swift arm swings to involve your upper body. It is also important to keep your chin level (as opposed to running in which you often look down).

When performed with correct movements, power walking is low-risk physical activity. It also is easy on your joints and strengthens your bones and muscles. Power walking can even relieve stress, improve your mood, and boost your immune system.

Benefits of Power Walking

Walking is often touted for its benefits in peer-reviewed research because of the considerable value it provides to your overall health. For instance, walking improves muscle tone, boosts cardiovascular health, and can even play a role in weight management. Turning your walk into a power walk has the potential to boost these benefits even more. Here is what you need to know about the benefits of power walking.

Improves Fitness Level

Power walking has a greater impact on your fitness level than traditional walking. For instance, researchers have found that six weeks of power walking can put you in better shape than walking at a reduced speed for the same amount of time.

In a study on patients in a phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation program, researchers divided participants into two groups—a power walking group and a “usual” walking group. Everyone received graded exercise tests and maximal oxygen consumption measurements on aerobic treadmill exercises.

These exercises and measurements lasted for 50 minutes and were conducted three times a week throughout a six-week period. Results showed participants in the power walking group had a significantly higher oxygen intake than the normal walking group.

This type of measurement is important, especially in rehabilitation programs, because it is typically considered the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. If you are hoping to improve your fitness and endurance levels, you may want to consider power walking.

Boosts Cardiovascular Health

Power walking can promote heart health, especially after a heart event, according to recent research. For instance, in one small clinical trial, 24 patients participating in a standardized outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program were randomized into two groups including a treadmill power walking group and a control group.

Throughout the study's four weeks, researchers administered a six-minute walk test and questionnaire. They also measured exercise stress, number of steps, and heart rates using an echocardiogram. Results showed substantial improvement in the cardiac rehabilitation of those in the power walking group.

Assists With Weight Management

There are a number of studies that demonstrate how walking can impact your weight management goals. For instance, in a data analysis of 3,388 participants in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that a faster walking cadence was inversely associated with waist-circumference both men and women.

This fast walking pace also helped reduce body mass index (BMI), weight, and insulin levels of study participants. During the study, median steps per day ranged from 2,247 to 12,334 for men and 1,755 to 9,824 for women. It is important to note that the walking speeds in this study were faster than normal walking speeds, but not up to the speeds of power walking, However, it does demonstrate how walking quickly can impact your weight management goals.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

How to Power Walk

If you are just getting started with power walking, it is important that you pay attention to your form. You also want to ensure you are walking briskly enough to benefit from your workout. Here is what you need to know about getting started with power walking.

Maintain Good Posture and Use Your Arms

Many people tend to stick their head out when they walk, and this results in poor posture. Make sure you keep your spinal column straight and that you stand tall. You also should keep your chin level and relax your shoulders.

You also should use a fast arm swing to burn more calories and engage your upper body. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and vigorously swing your arms back and forth with each step.

Use a Good Stride

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should contact your heels first while keeping your feet pointed ahead. Push off with your toes and maintain a good rolling stride throughout your power walk.

You also want to ensure you are taking a shorter stride. One of the biggest mistakes people make is overstriding, thinking that it will help them go faster. But it is actually the opposite. To go faster, you need to take shorter, quicker steps.

What's more, research indicates that taking more steps per minute can provide a number of health benefits. For instance, it can help you maintain a healthy insulin level while benefitting your weight management goals.

As you prepare for power walking, you also should invest in a good pair of walking shoes. These should be flexible, supportive, and lightweight to build speed and retain a good stride throughout your workout.

Make It a Workout

While you do not need to be out of breath when you power walk, you should breathe to the point you have a little bit of trouble talking. However, if you cannot speak at all, you are moving too fast and should slow down—especially if you are a beginner.

In addition to walking briskly, you also should make sure you are walking long enough or taking an adequate amount of steps to get the most out of your workout. Walking quickly while also engaging your arms and your core, gives your body a workout and raises your heart rate—both of which have a number of health benefits.

If you have trouble knowing if you are walking fast enough, try a pace calculator to determine how fast you are walking. With this information, you can decide if you need to increase your speed in order to reap the health benefits of power walking.

Safety Tips for Power Walking

  • Wear comfortable clothing appropriate for the weather conditions.
  • Make sure your shoelaces are tied, even double knotted, if necessary, to avoid tripping.
  • Lather up with sunscreen when walking during the daylight hours.
  • Carry a flashlight or use the flashlight on your smartphone when walking outside at night.
  • Wear reflective clothing when exercising outside at night.

Where to Put Power Walking to Use

You can put power walking to use in any number of locations. Try walking different routes throughout your neighborhood, mixing up flat terrain with hills. You can also vary your pace.

For instance, walk at a moderate pace for two blocks and then power walk for one block. Going back and forth between slower and faster speeds can make power walking less intimidating, and this variance gets your body more comfortable with raising your pace.

If you want to try racing, you could register for a local 5K that welcomes walkers and try power walking the entire 3.1 miles, or for as long as you can and then walking at a moderate pace for the rest of the race.

A Word From Verywell

Power walking is an exercise easily amenable to anyone. Even those who dread working out may enjoy power walking because it does not stress the joints or cost hundreds of dollars to do.

Following a few power walking techniques, such as keeping the foot rolling from heel to toe, bending your arms, and maintaining proper posture, you can help burn calories and increase your heart health as long as you are consistently walking.

Just be sure to speak with a healthcare provider before beginning regular workouts. They can advise you on what is right for you given your medical history and fitness level.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long should you power walk?

    According to the American College of Sports Medicine, walking can either be done in one workout a day or accumulated over shorter bouts, such as during work breaks and after dinner. You should participate in a walking workout or a moderate-intensity exercise for 150 minutes a week to achieve health benefits.

  • How many days a week should you power walk?

    The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as power walking, spread throughout the week. How long you walk and when you walk are totally up to you.

  • What muscles does power walking work?

    The primary muscles involved in power walking are the muscles of the lower body. Hip flexors (iliopsoas, sartorius), hip adductors, and knee extensors (quadriceps in the front of your thigh) swing your leg forward. The tibialis anterior (shin) flexes your foot so you land on your heel. Glutes, hamstrings (back of the thigh) and the gastrocnemius and soleus in your calf extend your leg behind you and power the push-off with your back foot. Abdominal and back muscles work as stabilizers to keep you standing tall as you walk. Upper body muscles such as your deltoids (shoulders), pectoralis major (chest), and biceps brachii (front of upper arm) are activated when you swing your arms.

8 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. Walk the Walk. What is power walking?

  2. American College of Sports Medicine. Starting a walking program.

  3. Kim C, Kim BO, Lim KB, Kim YJ, Park YB. The effect of power-walking in phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation programAnn Rehabil Med. 2012;36(1):133-140. doi:10.5535/arm.2012.36.1.133

  4. University of Virginia, School of Medicine. V02 max testing.

  5. Muthukrishnan R, Malik GS, Gopal K, Shehata MA. Power walking based outpatient cardiac rehabilitation in patients with post-coronary angioplasty: Randomized control trialPhysiother Res Int. 2021;26(4):e1919. doi:10.1002/pri.1919

  6. Tudor-Locke C, Schuna JM Jr, Han HO, et al. Step-based physical activity metrics and cardiometabolic risk. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(2):283-291. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001100

  7. Ardestani MM, Ferrigno C, Moazen M, Wimmer MA. From normal to fast walking: Impact of cadence and stride length on lower extremity joint momentsGait Posture. 2016;46:118-125. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2016.02.005

  8. American Heart Association. American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids.

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, CPT
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."