Changing Walking Speed Burns Calories!

Want to find an easy-peasy way to burn calories? Change your pace while walking, suggests a new study whose findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

walking
Conducting walking experiments in Ohio State’s Movement Lab. Photo credits: Matt Schutte/ The Ohio State University.

Engineers from the Ohio State University measured the effect of changing one’s pace on metabolic cost (that is, the number of calories burned). They found that walking at varied speeds has the potential of burning up to 20 % more calories than walking at a steady pace.

The cost in question was calculated by having participants change their speed when walking on a treadmill while the latter’s speed was kept constant.

“Most of the existing literature has been on constant-speed walking. This study is a big missing piece,” said Manoj Srinivasan, co-author of the study and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “Measuring the metabolic cost of changing speeds is very important because people don’t live their lives on treadmills and do not walk at constant speeds. We found that changing speeds can increase the cost of walking substantially.”

The researchers explain that the cost of changing speed during walking is not taken into consideration in calorie-burning estimations.

According to the findings, the energy required to start and stop walking might possibly account for up to 8 % of the energy we use during normal walking everyday.

“Walking at any speed costs some energy, but when you’re changing the speed, you’re pressing the gas pedal, so to speak. Changing the kinetic energy of the person requires more work from the legs and that process certainly burns more energy,” said Nidhi Seethapathi, the first author of the study.

Another finding entails walking speed and distance. They found that people walk slower for shorter distances and faster for longer ones. This piece of information might be helpful for those in the field of physical therapy where the speed it takes to cover a certain distance is an indicator of a patient’s progress.

“What we’ve shown is the distance over which you make them walk matters,” said Seethapathi. “You’ll get different walking speeds for different distances. Some people have been measuring these speeds with relatively short distances, which our results suggest, might be systematically underestimating progress.”

Srinivasan also provides advice for burning more calories.

“How do you walk in a manner that burns more energy? Just do weird things. Walk with a backpack, walk with weights on your legs. Walk for a while, then stop and repeat that. Walk in a curve as opposed to a straight line,” he said.

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