Brisk walking: How to do it correctly, according to experts

21 November 2022 dot 5-minute read
Healthy Body Fitness and exercise Feature Move Well Walking
The proper techniques of brisk walking include keeping the shoulders relaxed. (Credit: Getty Images)
Brisk walking is convenient, affordable and accessible for people of all fitness levels to ease themselves into a more active lifestyle. A daily brisk walk can significantly benefit mental and physical health.
"Physical activity doesn't have to be complicated," says Wanlapa Thongkham, a yoga instructor and martial arts teacher from Thailand. "Walking at a brisk pace, even for just 10 minutes at a time, is one of the easiest, most effective and powerful ways to keep fit and stay strong, in body and mind. And it can easily fit into everyone's life, even on busy days."

How to do brisk walking

Every step counts, so use every opportunity to walk. For example, walk to your next meeting if it's nearby. (Credit: Shutterstock)
How fast should you be walking? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, try moderate-intensity aerobic activity that "makes you sweat and raises your heart rate to the extent that you can still talk but not sing.”
Dr Sadra Sraddha, a retired acupuncturist and lifelong brisk walker from Indonesia, adds, "The key is to maintain a pace that feels challenging, but not so fast that you are left breathless or exhausted. You are the best judge."
Here are four ways to gauge whether you are in the brisk zone.
1. Count your steps
Aim for at least 100 steps per minute, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Use a smartwatch or pedometer app on your mobile phone to keep track of your daily steps.
2. Observe your breathing
A brisk walk should be faster than a stroll. You can tell you're brisk walking if you can hold a conversation and not run out of breath.
3. Keep an eye on your heart rate
As a rule of thumb, a brisk walk should bring your heart rate up to around 110-120 beats per minute (bpm). This varies from person to person, depending on factors including age, weight, overall health, how often you exercise and how fit you are.
Seek your physician's advice if you have existing disorders or health conditions before doing any intense physical activity.
4. Practice good posture
Dr Sraddha recommends the following for correct posture and walking technique:
  • Hold your head high and your chin parallel to the ground, looking forward, not down.
  • Keep your neck, shoulders and back relaxed, engaging your abdominal muscles. Move naturally.
  • Swing your arms loosely and freely with a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Walk steadily, rolling your foot from heel to toe.

Brisk walking benefits

Brisk walking can help you lose excess weight and improve your cardiovascular health. (Credit: Getty Images)
Adding walking to your fitness routine or simply going for a daily stroll can help you manage a wide range of health issues and improve your physical and mental health.
Improves heart health
Studies show that brisk walking five days a week is great for cardiovascular health. It lowers the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It can also significantly improve slow resting heart rate, boost blood circulation and lower blood pressure.
Keeps the weight off
A daily brisk walk helps reduce belly fat, too. Wanlapa suggests, "If you want to lose belly fat, alternate between a slow pace and a steady speed with faster steps, which makes your heartbeat faster and [helps you] breathe harder."
Tones your lower body
Incorporating brisk walking into your routine also loosens up stiff joints and improves your range of motion by increasing blood flow to those areas. In fact, research shows that walking for at least 10 minutes a day – about an hour every week – can help people with arthritis, prolonged back pain and other conditions that impact mobility.
Strengthens your immune system
A growing body of research suggests moderate-intensity exercise can power up the immune system, making you more resilient against pathogens.
Enhances mood
"A brisk walk is a great and effective way to keep your spirits high, even more so if you take a stroll through greenery and in the sunlight," says Dr Gwen Lee, a mental health therapist who specialises in anxiety and depression.
Nature walks can lower the body's stress hormones such as cortisol, a serious threat to heart health and blood pressure. It also releases endorphins, the body's happy hormones, which can reduce stress and positively impact sleep quality.
Sharpens your mind
"Walking is an activity that allows the mind to wander and can spark ideas and those 'ah-ha!' moments," says Dr Lee. Strolling briskly for one hour, three times a week, may also improve memory and brain function.

Frequency and duration of brisk walking

Whether you do it alone or with a group, make your daily walk more interesting by adding mini challenges and changing routes. (Credit: Shutterstock)
"Moderately active and healthy people should aim to do a brisk walk every day for about 30 minutes if they can. If they're short on time or have any existing health condition, 10 minutes daily would be enough," Dr Sraddha says.
If you are doing brisk walking for the first time, Dr Sraddha has some additional advice. "Remember to start slowly and warm up for five to 10 minutes. Slow down at the end of your walk to help your muscles cool down and gently stretch them afterwards."
Walking has a lower risk of injury than running, but accidents can happen. Uneven pavement can cause you to trip and fall. In addition, you may encounter foot or leg problems as you increase your intensity.
But don't let these concerns cause you to miss out on the many rewards of brisk walking. You can ease your worries with medical protection insurance to cover unexpected medical expenses. Finding the right support when you need it the most makes for a successful health journey.
NIH, National Library of Medicine. 2019. Walking and Other Common Physical Activities Among Adults with Arthritis — United States, 2019. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
NIH, National Library of Medicine. 2018. Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
NIH, National Library of Medicine. 2012 Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
NIH, National Library of Medicine. 2019. The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defence system. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
BMJ, British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2018. How fast is fast enough? Walking cadence (steps/min) as a practical estimate of intensity in adults: a narrative review. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
BMJ, British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysi. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
BMJ, British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2019. Even low levels of leisure-time physical activity lower the risk of death. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
CDC, Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention. 2019. Walking as an Opportunity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]
IJPH, Iranian Journal of Public Health. 2021. Assessing the Impact of Outdoor Activities on Mental Wellbeing; Focusing on the Walking Path in Urban Area. [online] [Accessed on 14 July 2022]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

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