Power Walking For Beginners


If you have thought about trying to run but it seems like a big goal, you may be interested in power walking as an alternative. It’s more low-impact than running and it’s a good way for those who are new to exercise to begin.

If you are unfamiliar with power walking or unsure of how to begin, this article will explain the difference between regular walking and power walking.

We’ll also cover the benefits of power walking for weight loss and some useful tips for power walking with the correct form.

What is Power Walking?

Power walking is a low-impact, weight-bearing form of exercise that’s done at a faster pace than normal walking.

When we look at taking a “normal” walk, the average walking speed is between 3 and 4 mph. But with power walking, the speed will range between 4.5 and 5.5 mph.

To do power walking effectively, you’ll need to get used to the technique which is designed to help you increase speed while reducing the risk of injury.

Using the correct power walking technique will prevent exaggerated moves that could leave you feeling fatigued faster. It can even help to increase your speed, as some power walkers have been known to reach speeds of between 7 and 10 mph.

With that being said, the speed that one walks at will be different from person to person. One should consider height, age, weight, and fitness level when power walking then gradually build up speed.

How Is It Different from Regular Walking?

The main difference between regular walking and power walking is that with power walking there’s more front-to-back arm swing, with your arms bent at 90-degree angles. With regular walking, your arms are down by your sides and don’t have an exaggerated swing. It’s the arm swing in power walking that helps to power the movement and increase the speed.

With each stride one foot is always in contact with the ground in both regular and power walking, however, you’ll take shorter strides with power walking. These shorter strides will help you to speed up your cadence.

Does Power Walking Burn a Lot of Calories?

Research has shown that a person who weighs 155 pounds can burn 133 calories walking on a flat surface for 30 minutes at a pace of 3.5 mph. When you increase the speed to 4.5 mph, then you can burn up to 210 calories when walking on a flat surface for 30 minutes.

If you maintained the speed of 4.5 mph for 60 minutes on a flat surface, then you could burn up to 497 calories. But the number of calories that one burns will also be dependent on the intensity of the power walk.

You could burn more calories by taking a path that has a number of hills that you’d need to climb, incorporate intervals or walk with weights—like a weighted vest or ankle weights.

The number of calories that you burn will also be influenced by your fitness level, age, heart rate, and weight. To keep track of your heart rate, number of steps, and calories burned you can use a fitness tracker. Some fitness trackers include features like real-time distance mapping, 24/7 health, and sleep tracking.

Is Power Walking a Good Way to Lose Weight?

Power walking provides a number of health benefits including weight loss.

Unlike regular walking, steady-state, power walking lets you increase the intensity and pace which leads to burning more calories than regular walking.

There is also the added movement of the arm swing, which increases calorie burning.

What Kind of Shoes Should I Wear for Power Walking?

Before you head out the door to go for a power walk in your normal everyday shoes, you’ll need to make sure that they’re suitable for power walking.

You may find that you need to get a new pair of shoes that will not only provide comfort, but also the support that you need when power walking.

One of the first things you should consider is the type of terrain that you’ll be walking on most often. If you’re going to be power walking on asphalt, concrete, and pavements, then you wouldn’t want to use a trail shoe as its sole is slightly stiffer than that of road running shoes.

Likewise, you don’t want to use a walking shoe with a flexible sole if you’re going to be doing most of your power walking on trails. These provide too much flexibility and not enough support, which could lead to injury.

With each step, your foot is going to flex and “roll” from the heel to the toe. The shoe needs to bend in the forefoot to allow for the natural motion of the foot.

When choosing a pair of power walking shoes, make sure to check that shoe does have some flexibility in the forefoot, but be sure to choose the right amount of flexibility for the terrain.

The outsole of the shoe should have enough rubber to provide traction when you move over surfaces that could be uneven or wet; this will help you to maintain your stability and balance.

Look for shoes that provide cushioning in the heel, as your heel will bear the brunt of every foot strike when walking. Shoes that are designed to help absorb the shock of impact often have thicker heel soles—like running shoes.

Have a look at your foot shape, as you’ll need to make sure that the shoes provide adequate arch support for your foot.

To prevent and reduce the risk of injuries, it’s always best to get shoes that provide the right support, especially if you overpronate. If you do overpronate, you may need to look at shoes that provide more stability and that will keep your foot in a natural, neutral position.

The shoes you wear should fit you well and have a thumb’s width between your big toe and the front of your shoe.

Tips for a Good Power Walking Workout

Warm-Up Properly

Before you start your power walk, take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up by walking at an easy pace. Then stop to do some stretches, as this will help you limber up before you head off at a brisk pace.

You can do the following stretches to help warm up and get your muscles ready:

  • Head rolls
  • Arm circles
  • Calf stretch
  • Quad stretch
  • Standing lunge hip stretch

A rule of thumb to remember is to never do intense exercise or stretches while the muscles aren’t warmed up properly. By warming up properly, you’ll be able to maintain your full range of motion and this will also help to reduce the risk of injury.

Remember to add on 10 minutes for your cool down at the end of your power walk, where you’ll slow your pace down as well as the range of arm motion. You can do the stretches above for your cool down as well.

Maintain Good Posture and Walking Form

It’s important to walk with good posture and form, as this will reduce the risk of injury and can prevent early muscle fatigue.

You should stand up straight, look ahead of you—not at the ground—and swing your arms from front to back. Keep your abs and glutes as tight as you can and try not to arch your back.

You should take short but fast steps. After a few minutes of power walking, you should be breathing fast but not feel out of breath as one would when running.

Take Quick Strides but Walk Naturally

Although you should take shorter strides than normal when power walking, you should still walk as naturally as possible.

Your legs and feet should be doing most of the work. Make sure you are moving your hips forward and not side to side, which is a common mistake when power walking.

Try not to lengthen your stride. When one first starts power walking, they may find themselves naturally lengthening their stride in an attempt to increase speed.

While you can vary your stride length to challenge yourself, this should be done only once you are used to the short, efficient strides of power walking.

Maintain a Good Arm Swing

The arm swing is an important element and helps to keep you moving forward by providing momentum, as well as burning more calories than a walk with little to no arm movement.

Your arms should be as relaxed as possible; stiffness can lead to injury as your muscles will be tensed. Bend your elbows and about 90 degrees and swing your arms forward with the opposite leg. For example, as your right leg comes forward, your left arm should be moving forward.

Don’t flare your elbows out away from your body. Try to keep your elbows close to your side. This minimizes drag and keeps you streamlined.

When you bring your arm backward, you should perform the movement as if you are grabbing something out of your back pocket. It should not be a lazy movement, but rather a purposeful one so that you can drive your hand forward on the next step.

Try not to cross your arms across your body. Move them forward and backward in almost a straight line for maximum efficiency.

Use Walking Poles

If you struggle to keep your arms moving efficiently, using walking poles can be helpful. They’re a good way to work on keeping your arms constantly engaged while walking. Walking with walking poles is known as Nordic walking.

This has its own benefits. Research suggests that you can burn up to 20 percent more calories when walking with poles, although this is similar to power walking with correct form and arm swing.

Using walking poles will help one to become accustomed to the arm motion. Once used to the poles, one can transition to a power walking arm movement more easily.

Photo of author


Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.