A person’s walking speed depends on many factors. Age, fitness, gender, climate, and even where you live can play a role in walking speed. Your own average walking speed will change over your lifetime, so it isn’t a fixed number.
Studies show that the average adult walking speed is a little over 3 miles an hour, and 3.13 mph is the standard which most crosswalks, cities, bridges, airports, and other pedestrian spaces are designed for. This is also the standard for entertainment purposes, like video games and virtual reality, because it influences how we process visual and spatial imagery.
But that standard doesn’t take into account the tremendous variables, so let’s take a closer look at average walking speeds.
What You'll Learn
- Average Walking Speed By Age and Gender
- Facts About Walking Speed: Did You Know … ?
- How to Discover Your Average Walking Speed
- Difference Between Average Walking and Brisk Walking
- How to Make Sure You’re Walking at Optimal Speed
Average Walking Speed By Age and Gender
Casual Walking Speed
Maximum Walking Speed
Facts About Walking Speed: Did You Know … ?
- Men walk more slowly when they are in love. Men walking with a woman who is a romantic partner will slow down by an average of 7% to match her pace.
- The temperature influences your walking speed. In fact, the average person walks twice as fast in outdoor temperatures of 68 degrees than they do in 53 degrees
- Walking in cities is faster than walking in the country? In fact, average walking speed increases predictably as cities grow.
- And some cities are faster than others. Singapore is the world’s fastest city, with an average walking speed of 3.8 mph.
How to Discover Your Average Walking Speed
Learning your individual average walking speed will help you determine how much how much exercise and how many calories you are burning during each walk. There are several ways to calculate your own walking speed:
Use a Map
By plotting your walk route on a map, you can determine your distance. Divide the distance by your time, and you discover your speed.
Use a Pedometer
As a rule, most people’s stride length is 32 inches. So for most people, 500 steps equals .25 miles. If you count your steps, you can convert that to distance, averaging 2000 steps per mile. Dividing that by your time walking will give you your average speed.
Use a Fitness App
There are a lot of great apps that will use your phone’s built-in accelerometer to determine how many steps you have taken, use your phone’s location data to determine how much distance you have traveled, and use a clock to determine the time. Free apps like Map My Walk or Walkmeter are specifically designed to track your walks.
Use a Smart Watch or Tracker
Many people find using a smart watch or tracking device like a Fitbit is an even more convenient and efficient way to track their activity and fitness levels, and those devices will easily calculate your walking speed for you. Importantly, many of these device also track your heart rate for you, so you can walk at the right pace to burn calories and get a better workout.
Difference Between Average Walking and Brisk Walking
Even casual walking is good for your heart health and overall fitness, and gives you a lot of great benefits. But in order to get a good workout during a walk, you need to increase the intensity a bit. To get the most heart-healthy benefit of any exercise, you need to elevate your heart rate. Here’s why elevating your heart rate is important:
- Exercising at a higher intensity forces your muscles to do more work circulating blood through your body, which takes some of the effort off of your heart
- An elevated heart rate delivers more oxygenated blood to the muscles more quickly, improving their function and performance, and burning more calories
- Over time, this kind of activity improves your lung capacity, reduces your blood pressure, and reduces your risk of heart disease
Brisk walking increases your speed, which increases your heart rate, which creates more of these important heart-healthy benefits when walking. Here’s how to make sure you are walking at the optimal speed for heart health.
How to Make Sure You’re Walking at Optimal Speed
Calculate Your Resting Heart Rate
Choose a time when you are relaxed and breathing deeply. For most people, taking their heart rate first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, is the best time to find their resting heart rate.
Find your pulse by pressing the index and middle fingers of one hand into the wrist of the opposite hand, just below the thumb. When you can feel your pulse in your fingers, start a stopwatch. Count the number of heart beats in 15 seconds, and then multiply that number by 4. That’s your resting heart rate.
Determine Your Maximum Heart Rate
For most people with healthy hearts, their maximum heart rate is 220 minus their age, so a person who is 30 years old has a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology has a convenient heart rate max calculator that factors in gender and weight, so it is more accurate.
Calculate Your Optimal Heart Rate
Doctors recommend that most people exercise at 55-85% of their maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes at a time for optimal heart health. Aiming for 70-75% is a good target, because it keeps you safely in the optimal zone without straining. Once you know your maximum heart rate, multiply it by .7 to determine your optimal heart rate for exercise.
Monitor Your Heart Rate
Check your heart rate a few times during your workouts to make sure that you are in the optimal zone.
After Warming Up
Your warm up should get you to at least 50% of your maximum heart rate. You should feel physically warm, be lightly sweating or warm to the touch, and be breathing more quickly or deeply.
After Your Workout Has Begun
Once you are past the warm-up stage and fully engaged in your exercise, check your heart rate again to make sure that you have reached 70-75% of your maximum heart rate. If it’s still a bit slow, increase your speed a bit.
During Your Peak Intensity
If your workout is hard or long, or feels physically strenuous, check your heart rate a couple times to make sure you aren’t over-straining yourself. If your heart rate is too high, over 80%, you may want to slightly reduce intensity to maintain a healthy heart rate.
While this is recommended best practice, it can be awkward to take your pulse mid-workout; it usually requires pausing your activity, which immediately affects your heart rate, and managing a clock while taking your pulse.
It’s usually more efficient to use a device that monitors your heart rate for you, so you can check it with a glance. However, after manually monitoring your heart rate for a while you will get a “feel” for the optimal heart rage, and won’t have to actively check it as often.
What this all comes down to is that brisk walking, with an elevated heart rate, is healthier and more effective for fitness and weight loss than casual or slow walking.
One of the reasons that walking is such an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise is because it is so easy to increase your pace to get your heart rate into the target range and maintain that level. Walking gives you excellent control over the intensity of your exercise, allowing you to get the optimal workout every time.
If you want to start walking for exercise and heart health, check out our guide here, and make regular walking part of your wellness routine for life.