How to Walk Briskly For Exercise

On our first bike ride together after we moved to Myrtle Beach, I had to set the ground rules with Ava before we began. I said, “If you want to air it out, just go…I know how to get back to the house on my own.”

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Ava rides her bike fast. I get tired if I try and keep up with her pace. In fact, we stopped riding together years ago because it was just so frustrating. But, now that we are in a very bike friendly area we’ve rediscovered the joy of riding together. It’s just so easy to open our garage door, hop on the bikes, and head to the beach. 

Ava rides for exercise. I ride for fun. That’s why she goes faster. She’s also stronger, but it makes me feel better to say our riding motivations are different. Both are true.

But, when we walk together the roles are reversed. I walk for exercise. She walks for fun. I walk fast. She tells me to slow down.

Experts keep telling us to move more and sit less. The benefits are pretty substantial. But, not all movement has equal benefit. The way Ava rides her bike is better exercise than the way I ride mine. The way I walk is better exercise than the way Ava walks.

There is lots of research on walking as exercise. And, while there are lots of benefits from taking a walk at any speed, we are often encouraged to walk at a brisk pace.

What is considered a brisk pace for walking? According to experts, you are walking briskly if you cover a mile in 20 minutes. For most of us, that’s about 2,000 steps. If you walk at this pace for an hour you’ve gone three miles.

Most of us navigate life walking very casually. I call this a grocery store pace. If you’re not used to moving faster than this, reaching a brisk pace will take a little time.

Check with your doctor before starting or upping your exercise intensity. It’s always safer to increase slowly. 

It’s also helpful to know what your pace is now. There are a several easy ways to do this. If you normally walk through your neighborhood, drive it one time and see how far one mile is. We have a park nearby that has a one mile paved trail through the woods. It also has markers every 1/10 mile.

If you live near a high school and it has an accessible running track walking four times around is one mile. And, if you use a treadmill that can also measure out your one mile.

Once you have your one mile measured out, walk it at your normal pace and see how long it takes. If you reach one mile in 20 minutes or less you are already walking at a brisk pace. If not, you can get there!

The key is to gradually increase your pace. Remember, walking briskly is REAL exercise. If it takes you 35 minutes to walk a mile, you’re not going to shave 15 minutes off your pace in one day any more than someone who is barely able to do one pushup will reach ten the next day simply because they want to. You have to increase YOUR CAPACITY to walk briskly in small bites.

Your goal is to shave off just a few seconds from your one-mile walk the next time you do it. Aim to make each one mile walk just a few seconds faster. Your heart is getting a little stronger each time you do this and your capacity for walking briskly is increasing.

Even if you are already reaching a mile in 20 minutes or less, you can also increase your pace. The CDC says 3 mph is the minimum for brisk walking. Can you eventually reach a 4 mph pace? This would mean walking that mile in 15 minutes.

WARNING – If you keep pushing yourself to increase your pace and intensity you may eventually find it hard to walk slower or sit long

After years of walking with intention and intensity, my natural pace now is faster than 4 mph. Slowing that down while I’m walking with Ava is not easy. But, I love my time with her and am happy to walk at a pace that’s more comfortable for her. 

A few years ago, we were on vacation at the Outer Banks with some friends when someone suggested a nice walk on the beach together. My good friend, Karl, quickly chimed in with, “As long as it’s not a forced march.” 

I got the message.

Walking at any pace is worthwhile with friends and loved ones. But, if you want the added health benefits of a brisk pace all it takes is some intentionality and a willingness to push yourself a little faster. 

To help you track your pace here’s a free download I call The 90 Day Win Tracker. Each day you walk a mile write down how long it takes and how many steps you walked. It’s also a great reminder that each day you walk for fitness is a win!

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire 2 this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

I also recommend subscribing to this blog for weekly encouragement and motivation. Establishing and maintaining a fitness habit is not easy. Receiving a regular article to help you keep moving forward might be the difference maker you need. To subscribe simply click FOLLOW (to the right if you’re reading on a computer or below if you’re on your phone)