For anyone looking to blast away calories while strolling around town, this one’s for you! (Photo: Guglielmo Enea / EyeEm | Getty Images)
Putting a little extra spring — and stops — into your steps can help you slash extra calories.
According to research published in the journal Biology Letters, walking at various speeds has the ability to burn up to 20 percent more calories compared to walking at a steady pace. This is the first study to measure the metabolic energy cost of shifting walking speeds; previous works have focused on same-speed walking.
The engineering experts at The Ohio State University (OSU) suggest that we may be underestimating the amount of calories we burn daily by up to eight percent, because we don’t account for the work our body does when it actually starts and stops while strolling.
In order to test this theory, researchers instructed volunteers to hop on a treadmill and alternate between walking quickly to the front of the machine or slowly to the back of it. Studies conducted in the past measured the numbers of calories torched by manually changing the speed of the treadmill. However, the current authors explain that those experiments did not reflect true-to-life walking since the machine took on some of the work. (The speed changes that took place can be seen in this video, below. )
“Our study suggests that to burn more calories you should change your walking speed fast and often,” Nidhi Seethapathi, first author of the study and doctoral fellow in mechanical engineering at OSU, tells Yahoo Health. She explains that if a person is shopping, for example, “increasing their pace for one minute every five minutes would surely increase calorie burn. But this is mainly because you are walking faster during that one-minute. The kind of speed changes we are talking about in the paper are more incessant, more frequent — every few seconds rather than every few minutes.”
The avid power walker may also want to change things up, Manoj Srinivasan, co-author of the study and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at OSU, tells Yahoo Health. For example, he says that walking for 30 minutes “using a mixture of speeds — say three different speeds, at ten minutes each” will also achieve more calorie-burning results than trekking for the same length of time at just one pace.
So for anyone looking to blast away calories while strolling around town, Seethapathi’s advice is this— walk in a way that feels unnatural.
“Yes, by ‘unnatural’ we mean anything you don’t usually do while walking,” she states. “People walk in a way that roughly minimizes energy spent. So to increase energy spent, you need to move away from what looks and feels natural. Adding weights or wearing a backpack would certainly burn more calories for the same walking speed.”
And Srinivasan suggests adding some playful movements to liven up your strides. “Walk sideways, walk without swinging your arms, walk by swinging your arms wildly, walk but not in a straight line and hop,” he says.
If you want to stick as close as possible to the results found in the study, Srinivasan says to “Walk for three seconds, stop, walk for seconds, stop, and so on — thereby constantly starting and stopping, so expending energy to change speeds. Various studies — some by us, some by others — have shown that all of the above will burn more energy than normal walking.”
He concludes by expressing his and Seethapathi’s true purpose for their investigation. “Our interest in this study was to explore the fundamental mechanics of walking — and what various types of walking costs calorie-wise — rather than specific health consequences, such as weight loss,” he says. “We don’t want to give the impression of giving health advice.”
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