Race walking is an Olympic track and field event, but many people enjoy modified versions of race walking—often referred to as power or speed walking—as a recreational exercise.
There are no hard and fast rules about how to speed walk, but it generally means you are walking as quickly as you can, short of running—and to do this, it helps to pump your arms with your elbows bent.
In 2011, the Summer National Senior Games added power walking as a demonstration (not official) event, in which one foot must always be in contact with the ground but, unlike in race walking, the knees may be bent.
While a brisk walker typically covers a mile in 15 minutes (that’s four miles per hour), a power or speed walker may do a 12-minute mile (five miles per hour), though this depends in part on the person’s height and stride length. A good race walker can move faster than a 10-minute mile (six miles per hour). In contrast, a slow walker or stroller moves at about two miles per hour.
Swiveling (really rotating) your hips helps increase speed by reducing your side to side motion so that you have the most propulsion forward. The bent arm swing also helps by allowing the arm to swing more quickly, in sync with your feet. Pushing off with the front of your back foot speeds things up, too.
Quicker walk to fitness
Any kind of brisk walking is certainly good for you. But picking up the speed gives you more of a cardiovascular workout and burns more calories, especially when you pump your arms. The more intense motion of speed walking boosts muscle activity in your hips and ankles more than just regular walking and works out your upper body as well.
A study from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women who walked at different speeds (three, four, or five miles an hour) five days a week for 24 weeks all showed gains in fitness. But those who walked the fastest benefited most—as much as runners.
Another study, in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, similarly found that race walkers achieve cardiovascular gains as great as those seen in runners.