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5 Types/Styles of Walking: Benefits and Techniques
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5 Types/Styles of Walking: Benefits and Techniques

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on October 27, 2022
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11 min

There are many different kinds of walking beyond just going for a casual stroll. Switching up your walking routine can offer surprising health benefits, from improving your cardiovascular health to helping you burn calories and shed pounds.

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When we think of burning calories and improving our heart health, walking generally isn’t the first form of exercise we think of. But, surprisingly, power walking boasts many of the same benefits as running and even has some perks that make it a better fit for certain demographics.

If you are looking for new ways to incorporate walking into your life, keep reading to find out the 5 most popular types of walking and their unique benefits. 

5 Types of Walking

There are many different types of walking, and some are so popular that they’ve even been turned into an Olympic sport.

Each type of walking uses different techniques to produce better health benefits when it comes to losing weight, improving cardiovascular health, and strengthening bones and muscles while being as low-impact as possible.

In this section, we will review some of the most popular walking styles and their unique qualities.

#1 Race/Olympic walking

Race walking has a lot of similarities to long-distance running, with two particular rules separating these two styles of exercise.

One rule states that one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times, and the other requires that the front leg must be completely straight from the moment it touches the ground until it passes completely below the body.

Race walking is an Olympic sport that involves walking for either 20km (12.4 miles) or 50km (32 miles) race distances, with the latter race distance being available only to men.

Although this sport might not seem exceptionally challenging, the world record for walking a mile is 5:31 minutes. This is almost twice as fast as the average person’s running mile speed.

#2 Brisk walking

There are no rules or prerequisites to brisk walking, aside from needing to maintain a pace of around 3 miles an hour, which is almost double the average outdoor walking speed of 1.3 miles per hour.

Brisk walking is done at a conversational pace and shouldn’t make you feel breathless, but it should also feel slightly challenging for your cardiovascular system. 

A good way to gauge how quickly you should walk is by checking that you are still able to carry out a conversation but that you don’t have enough lung capacity to be still able to sing along to a song.

The distance that you decide to brisk walk will depend on things like your level of fitness and the desired health benefits you’re looking to get from this kind of walking gait. You always have the option to increase your speed to make your walks more effective for building muscle

Generally speaking, a 30–45-minute walk will do the trick. 

#3 Nordic walking

Nordic walking is a style of walking that uses poles, similar to cross-country skiing poles, to better balance the stress of walking between the upper and lower body. 

These poles also offer you an added level of propulsion to move you forward, giving you the option to increase your walking speed effortlessly. It also makes it a more effective workout for gaining upper body strength.

Since this walking style helps ease the strain that walking can put on the bones and joints, it is especially useful for more elderly walkers and anyone recovering from injury. 

Nordic walking is one of two styles of pole walking. The other style uses poles for added support, especially while hiking, whereas nordic walking uses poles to propel you forward and increase your walking gait

These types of walks should last between 30 minutes and 2 hours for the best walking benefits, though you can always adjust the duration of your walks to match your particular level of fitness.

#4 Speed/Power walking

Speed walking is a walking style that pushes the limits of the natural walking gait. 

More beginner power walkers will generally walk between 3–5 miles per hour, while more advanced power walkers can walk up to 10 miles per hour without switching into a full-blown jog.

Speed walking is similar to race walking in terms of speed but differs in that there are no designated lengths or rules related to how you can walk, though power walking involves perfecting your form if you want to increase your speed while still keeping your joints safe.

When doing a power walk, it’s a good idea to aim to walk 5 miles an hour, which you can calculate by walking a mile every 12 minutes. How long you walk is up to you, but generally, 30–60 minutes is ideal. 

#5 Chi walking

Chi walking is a style of walking that focuses on intelligent movement. Using proper posture and engagement through the core muscles helps decrease the level of impact your body experiences as you walk.

There are many varieties of chi walking specialized to help walkers either lose weight, increase strength, or improve cardiovascular health. All these different styles encourage mindfulness to remedy muscle imbalances and pain as you walk.

The length and speed of a chi walk are less of a focus of this walking style. Instead, it is best to spotlight the amount of time you’re able to spend on your steady walk, mindfully aware of how you move.

Why Is It Recommended to Practice Different Types of Walking?

Although walking of any kind is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise according to the UK National Health Service, there are several reasons why you might want to explore a walking style that you don’t normally use, including:

  • It can keep your workouts from feeling boring.
  • Exploring different walking styles can help you find the one you enjoy the most.
  • Improves the cardiovascular benefits you can experience by walking.
  • Certain walking styles are less impactful on the bones and joints than others.

Switching up your walking workouts can also have a big impact on the amount of time it takes to see results. Finding new ways to speed up your progress from any given workout style can support you in staying consistent with your workouts.

Walking, like any workout style you choose, will involve a certain amount of structure, especially if you want to use a few different walking styles to speed up your progress.

If you struggle with figuring out how many miles to walk, the speed at which you should be walking, or the style of walking that best suits your unique needs, then using a walking app like Walking.Diet can help. 

This walking app offers various walking workout options and includes well-balanced meal plans specifically designed for anyone wanting to get into the habit of daily exercise.

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What Type of Exercise Is Walking?

Walking is a combination of cardio and aerobic exercise since it will increase your heart rate, but not to the point where you switch to anaerobic respiration, which is triggered by more high-intensity physical activity.

What Are the Main Criteria for Walking Posture?

Since walking is something we do so consistently throughout our lives, most of us begin walking on auto-pilot so we can instead focus our attention elsewhere, like on our cell phones.

If you are beginning to suffer from pain in your feet or lower legs due to poor walking posture and spending too much time on your feet, you might want to start making small adjustments to how you walk. 

A simple check-in that you can do before walking, as well as periodically throughout your walk, includes:

  • Lengthening your spine
  • Standing tall with your chin parallel to the ground
  • Relaxing your shoulders down your back
  • Placing even pressure between the inner and outer edge of your feet
  • Balancing your foot strike between the toes and heels
  • Not using rigorous arm swings but instead allowing your arms to comfortably swing alongside the body

Activation of the core muscles is another important part of proper walking posture, especially if you are chi walking since it can help reduce the burden on the low back and prevent back injuries and disc problems.

5 Benefits of Different Types of Walking

Walking boasts numerous health benefits, including improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure, boosting energy, and releasing feel-good endorphins. 

How exactly walking contributes to these benefits and the best ways to maximize your walking workouts will be explored in more detail below.

#1 Improves cardiovascular health

Probably the most significant reason you would want to consider switching up your regular walking style involves the cardiovascular benefits of doing so. 

Although power walking burns slightly fewer calories than running, both exercises have similar cardiovascular benefits when it comes to reducing high blood pressure and lowering cholesterol.

According to this study, walking even 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 35%. 

#2 Increases mindfulness

Many types of walking included in this article require a certain level of mindfulness and awareness to be done correctly. 

Chi walking is probably the most mindful style of walking. Focusing on engaging the core, lengthening the spine, and generally paying attention to more of the minor cues involved in proper walking posture can help bring your attention to the present moment. 

Mindful walking, a practice of bringing your attention to the present moment while walking, can be done with any of the walking styles mentioned in this article and is clinically proven to reduce feelings of depression.

If you struggle to stay present while you walk, you could also challenge yourself to walk while following the rules of race walking. This will help keep you focused on nothing other than placing one foot in front of the other.

#3 Releases endorphins and boosts mood

Endorphins are chemicals our bodies release in response to pain and work by blocking off the pain receptors. They are also released when we have pleasurable experiences, such as going for a massage or eating our favorite meal. 

Since they are designed to block the nerves responsible for sending pain signals to your brain, having a higher level of endorphins in the body can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, aid in weight loss, and even improve our self-image.

Any kind of physical activity, including going for a brisk walk in the fresh air, can help trigger the release of these feel-good hormones, which, over time, can be a powerful force in improving your mental health and boosting your mood day to day. 

#4 Burns more calories 

When it comes to burning calories, power walking, brisk walking, and race walking will be your best options. 

The faster you walk, the more energy – in the form of calories – your muscles require to fuel your movements. 

Walking at a fast enough pace can help you burn close to twice as many calories, which means that a slow and mindful chi walk, while beneficial for the mind and body, won’t have the same calorie-burning potential as the other walking styles.

If your goals for walking include wanting to lose weight, getting into a consistent routine of going for a 30-minute walk every day can help you significantly increase the number of calories you burn. 

When done consistently, walking can help you start losing a surprising amount of body fat. 

#5 Strengthens bones and muscles

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which means it is done on your feet while using the bones in your lower body to support your body weight.

Doing weight-bearing exercise is the best way to increase the strength and density of your bones, which can significantly impact your likelihood of being diagnosed with bone-related conditions in the future, like osteoporosis.

Anyone struggling with osteoporosis or currently overweight and just getting back into regular physical activity will benefit most from nordic walking and going for a steady walk at a slow pace.

Generally speaking, slower walks will help you build back strength in your bones and muscles without putting the body under any unnecessary strain that could result in an injury. 

FAQs

How many steps should I take per day?

10,000 steps a day is a reasonable number to aim for. According to this 2011 study, most healthy adults take between 4,000 and 18,000 steps daily, so 10,000 is a good middle ground.

How many calories on average can I burn?

On average, a 155-pound person can expect to burn between 133 and 216 calories during 30 minutes of walking, depending on their pace. You can land in the higher end of this range by increasing your speed or walking on an incline.

How long should I walk for weight loss?

Going for a 30-minute walk 5 days a week is clinically proven to decrease body weight and build cardiovascular endurance significantly. It’s also important to note that in this study, increasing the duration of walks to 60 minutes didn’t create measurable differences.

A Word From Our Coach

Going for a walk every day, even if you set a slower pace, can have many health benefits that can compound surprisingly quickly and help you live an overall healthier and happier life.

Brisk walking is a great option for anyone currently struggling with health issues related to weight or inactivity and is perfect for easing the body back into regular exercise.

Even if you are committed to a consistent exercise routine, penciling in more time for brisk walking can be the perfect excuse to get you outside. Over time, it could prove even more helpful than other exercise types for lowering stress levels and improving overall well-being.

If you’re someone who gets caught up wondering how many miles you should walk a day,  remember that there is no correct length for walking. When in doubt, trust that regularly walking for about an hour is more than enough time for you to soak up all the benefits.

Bottom Line

Hopefully, as we’ve reviewed the different types of walking and their particular health benefits, you’ve also been considering which style best suits you and your unique walking goals. 

Whether you make a habit out of power walking to burn the most calories or use chi walking to bring balance back into your natural walking gait isn’t important. 

What is important is that you are building your way towards better health and creating a habit that will keep you healthy and happy for years to come.

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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