Does Slow Walking Burn More Calories?

Just to show you any kind of effort to getting moving on a regular exercise program is a great step toward optimal health, a University of Colorado study has found leisurely distance walking may burn more calories than regular walking. Moreover, slower walking, coupled with low-impact cardiovascular activity, could be a good recipe for obese people looking to get into shape.

Researchers tested 20 men and 20 women on treadmills and sidewalks, half of whom were of normal weight while the rest had a body mass index (BMI) ranging from 30-40. Each subject's body composition using an instrument known as a DEXA scanner to measure fat mass, lean tissue mass and bone mineral content of the total body. A unique treadmill that can independently measure loads placed on the left and right feet while walking and how the biomechanical forces increase with body weight and walking speed was also used.

Some of the more interesting findings:

  • Patients who walked 2 mph versus 3 mph reduced the workload on their knee joints by as much as 25 percent.
  • The number of calories burned per pound of body weight is similar for both obese and normal-sized adults walking at the same speed. (The obese, researchers say, may unconsciously alter their posture and walk straighter, thus burning fewer calories.)
  • Brisk walking dramatically increases the knee joint forces, leading to a variety of problems including joint injuries and arthritis.

The fact remains, if a person has a lot of weight to lose, 90 minutes of exercise every day is required. Although I've received quite a bit of resistance from those claiming this recommendation is excessive, but the truth is I have not seen consistent, positive results for losing weight with exercise levels below this level. It's also important to remember this level of exercise is only required for overweight individuals who have accumulated an exercise debt that must be repaid to optimize their health.

There's certainly plenty of evidence on my Web site how much good exercise can do for you to reduce your risk of prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease and sudden cardiac arrest and help you better fight Alzheimer's and depression.

If you want to get started today, I urge you to read my exercise guidelines and review the advice of contributing editors Paul Chek and Ben Lerner.

Obesity Research, Vol. 13, Number 5, May 2005: 891-899

EurekAlert June 15, 2005

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