Outdoor Walking Speeds of Apparently Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Elaine M. Murtagh, Jacqueline L. Mair, Elroy Aguiar, Catrine Tudor-Locke, Marie H. Murphy
  • Sports Medicine, October 2020, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1007/s40279-020-01351-3

Do people walk fast enough to meet public health guidelines?

Photo by Jeffrey Grospe on Unsplash

Photo by Jeffrey Grospe on Unsplash

What is it about?

Walking outdoors can be used by many people to meet public health guidelines for moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity. But, we don't know what speed people walk naturally and if it is fast enough to meet these guidelines. We reviewed the available evidence on outdoor walking pace in apparently healthy adults. Based on data from over 14,000 participants we found that walking at a self-selected (usual) pace was associated with an average speed of 1.31 m/s, a cadence of 117 steps/min, and an oxygen consumption of 12 mL/kg/min, meaning that usual pace walking meets public health thresholds for moderate-intensity activity.

Why is it important?

Walking is the most commonly reported exercise among adults and the cornerstone of physical activity promotion for public health. Walking speed is related to intensity, and since physical activity of moderate-to-vigorous intensity is associated with health benefits, it is important to know if usual walking pace is fast enough to reach this intensity. We confirm that 'usual' paced walking is moderate intensity. This means that if people engage in walking for physical activity they will be meeting public health guidelines. We can use pace-based instruction to support walking in outdoor settings within public health guidelines.

Perspectives

Dr Jacqueline Louise Mair
Singapore-ETH Centre

Walking is something that many people can do, whether it is for fun, to get to work, or do complete everyday tasks. This study confirms that adults walking at a usual pace are meeting public health guidelines - that is, moderate intensity physical activity. We should promote and encourage people to walk outdoors at a usual pace in order to avail of health benefits.

Elroy Aguiar
University of Alabama

In this review article we synthesized the evidence from 35 studies (14015 participants) related to walking speed, cadence (steps/min) and intensity. Bottom line - when healthy adults are asked to walk at their "usual" or "normal" pace, they walk at a speed and cadence that is associated with a moderate intensity. This has important implications for public health recommendations and individual exercise prescription. For the vast majority of the adult population, walking is a convenient, low-skill, and cost-effective mode of activity for both exercise, as well as non-exercise physical activity (e.g., activities of daily living and transport). And now, with the evidence provided in this review article, we are more confident that the majority of adults self-select to walk at an intensity that is known to elicit multiple health benefits.

Read Publication

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01351-3

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Jacqueline Louise Mair, Dr Elaine Murtagh, and Elroy Aguiar