Taking Your Walks to the Next Level: A Sports Cardiologist’s Advice for Power Walkers

Want to get more of a workout from your walks? Power walking burns a similar number of calories as running, experts say. “You can burn as many calories power walking at 4.5 mph for one hour as you would jogging for the same time and distance,” says Eli Friedman, M.D., medical director of sports cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, a part of Baptist Health South Florida. “Plus, power walking tends to be easier on the knees and feet.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should be getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week. The guidelines also recommend that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes every day. Following these guidelines, the CDC says, can contribute to overall health and decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

Dr. Friedman, who serves as team cardiologist for Miami’s Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, and numerous local colleges and universities, is also cardiology consultant to the United States Tennis Association’s Sports Science Committee, and advisory sports cardiologist for the Broward County Public Schools Sports Medicine & Student Wellness Committee. Aside from his work helping elite and armchair athletes, Dr. Friedman includes running, cycling and training as part of his daily routine.

In an interview with Resource editors, Dr. Friedman offered helpful tips for anyone interested in power walking.

Resource: What is power walking and how is it different from normal walking?

Eli Friedman, M.D., medical director of sports cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

Dr. Friedman: Power walking is similar to regular walking, but done with more intensity and at a faster pace. In other words, the number of strides per minute will increase and there may be more use of the upper body – specifically the arms – to propel the body forward. One might find that his or her breathing is harder and heart rate is faster with power walking. 

Resource: What are the benefits of power walking?

Dr. Friedman: Generally speaking, the more intense the activity, the more health benefits. Compared to someone to walks at a casual pace, a power walker can expect lower blood pressures, heart rates, blood sugars and cholesterol numbers. 

Resource: What advice would you give someone who wants to start power walking?

Dr. Friedman: Start slow. Try intervals at first. For instance, walk at a normal pace for four minutes and then power walk for one. Do six sets of those. As you get more comfortable, increase the length of time you are power walking for and decrease the lower-paced interval. Eventually, you should be able to power walk exclusively. 

Resource: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dr. Friedman: Power walking is a great activity for someone who is looking to increase the intensity of their exercise. However, it’s always important to listen to your body and pay attention to any unexpected or concerning symptoms. If you develop any unusual aches, pains, dizziness or shortness of breath while power-walking, please see your doctor.

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