“Do Weird Things” to Burn More Calories Walking (Starting with a Change of Pace)

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Marji_101015New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests that changing your walking speed may make a significant difference in the number of calories you burn.

For the study, a pair of engineering researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbia called on volunteers to walk on treadmills. But they couldn’t just stroll leisurely. The researchers asked participants to keep the speed of the treadmill always the same, but ensure that they change up their pace while walking. Because the treadmill’s speed wasn’t adjusted, when participants walked at a quicker pace, they would move to the front of the treadmill; when walking slower, they moved to the back of the treadmill’s belt.

In many similar studies, researchers speed up or slow down treadmills to increase or decrease the participants’ pace; however, as this study’s authors note, this can lead to less exertion on the part of the participant, causing the results to be slightly skewed.

Following the treadmill sessions, the researchers measured the cost, metabolically speaking, of changing pace. Essentially, this “cost” refers to calories burned.

The researchers discovered that the metabolic cost for changing paces while walking, what they called “oscillating-speed walking,” was higher as compared to walking at a steady pace, referred to here as “constant-speed walking.” What exactly was the difference? The increase was measured at six percent to 20% for speed fluctuations ranging from plus-0.13 meters to 0.27 meters to minus-0.13 meters to 0.27 meters per second. Additionally, the researches found that eight percent of calories burned each day happen simply by starting and stopping walking.

What does this mean to you? Well, simply put, if you want to shed weight and burn calories, changing up your pace while walking is a good way to give yourself a 20% boost in calories burned.

As the researchers note, this particular study is one of the first to measure the overall effect of changing pace while walking on metabolic cost, or the number of calories burned, oron calories burned. As they explained, measuring the metabolic cost of changing pace is important because it is a more accurate measure of a person’s off-treadmill walking habits. As noted by the authors, people don’t live on their treadmills and they don’t always walk at a constant pace; add this to the fact that the ground doesn’t give your speed a boost, and it becomes clear why ensuring the treadmill speed stays consistent is important.

Finally, the study’s authors suggest “doing weird things,” including the following helpful tips, to burn more calories when walking:

  • Walk with a backpack on and add weight to the pack to increase resistance (don’t go overboard though)
  • Walk with weights on your legs or ankles
  • Walk for a period of time, then stop and rest before repeating your steps
  • Walk in a curve instead of a straight line
  • Walk in an area that offers varying gradients, such as small hills, gradual inclines, or hiking trails

Sources for Today’s Article:
Seethapathi, N. and Srinivasan, M., “The metabolic cost of changing walking speeds is significant, implies lower optimal speeds for shorter distances, and increases daily energy estimates,” Biology Letters September 16, 2015, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2015.0486.

Paddock, C. “Varying Walking Speed May Burn More Calories,” Medical News Today web site, October 9, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/300734.php.

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