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Slow Walking Burns More Calories, Easier on Joints


Updated July 02, 2014

Slow Walking

Slow Walkers

Wendy Bumgardner © 2013

Walking slowly not only burns more calories per mile, it may also save wear and tear on the joints of those who are obese. With increasing interest in slow walking with a treadmill desk, walkers want to know whether they are getting any benefit.

Burn More Calories per Mile at 2 MPH

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder confirmed that people burn more calories per mile walking a very leisurely 2 miles per hour than walking a moderate to brisk 3 to 4 miles per hour. Researcher Ray Browning also noted a surprise finding, that obese people have modified their body movement so that they are energy-efficient walkers. While they burn more calories per mile due to moving more weight over that distance, the calories burned per pound of body weight was similar to lean people.
Walking Calorie Calculator
Enter your weight, speed, and distance to see how many calorie you burn.

Slower Walking is Easier on the Joints

More good news is that strolling slower also reduces the loads on the knee joints by 25%. This can be an important factor as obese people take up an exercise program to burn calories while reducing the risk of injury. "The message is that by walking more slowly, obese individuals can burn more calories per mile and may reduce the risk of arthritis or joint injury," said Ray Browning in a press release. Walking with fitness poles has a similar effect, burning more calories per mile while taking pressure off of the knees and joints.
Walking With Fitness Walking Poles: Nordic Walking

Add Low-Impact Cardio Exercise

Slower walking has one drawback, it doesn't give the aerobic training effect produced by walking fast enough to raise the heart rate. Browning recommends adding other vigorous lower-impact activities like swimming, cycling, step routines and elliptical training workouts.

Why Do You Burn More Calories at Low Speed?

At low speeds, you lose the efficiency of already being in motion - momentum, as one step is the springboard to the next step. This makes your muscles work a little harder with each step.

Browning, R. "Energetic cost and preferred speed of walking in obese vs. normal weight women." Obesity Research, May 2005; vol 13: pp 891-899. News release, University of Colorado.

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