Burn More Calories When You Walk

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By Ayala Laufer-Cahana, M.D.

With smartphones and fitness trackers counting our every step, many people try to reach a daily target — the ballpark of 10,000 steps is considered a good place to be.

But how you walk might matter as much as how far.

A new study by Nidhi Seethapathi and Manoj Srinivasan, from the Ohio State University, shows that when we change the speed of our pace, and alternate between fast and slow walking, we might burn up to 20 percent more calories. The study had volunteers walking in varying speeds, while measuring their metabolic rate using a spirometer and found that much like a car, breaking and then stepping on the gas costs more energy than moving forward at a steady pace.

So the good news is that if you’re walking outside, and on your walk you slow down to admire a pretty bird, stop when you see someone you know, and then speed up when it starts to drizzle, you’re likely burning more calories than you previously estimated. This study gives permission to wander, wonder, smell the flowers and walk in circles, just don’t forget to also accelerate from time to time.

But don’t kid yourself; while the way you walk can burn more calories please don’t give yourself permission to eat more when you’re back from your walk. Exercise is the magic potion for health, but shouldn’t be viewed as a weight loss remedy — for the simple reason that just exercising more (without reducing caloric intake) rarely results in weight loss.

Dr. Ayala

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