If you love walking to lose weight (the fresh air, the fall leaves, the cozy sweaters!), a recent study has found that you can burn 20 percent more calories by making one simple change to your routine: Change up your pace. (Just don’t change it up because you’ve spotted a food truck.)
Yep, engineering researchers at The Ohio State University found that walking at varying speeds can burn more calories compared to maintaining a steady pace. The act of changing speeds burns energy, and the researchers found that up to eight percent of the energy we use during walks could be because of the energy necessary to start and stop walking.
“Walking at any speed costs some energy, but when you’re changing the speed, you’re pressing the gas pedal, so to speak,” Nidhi Seethapathi, first author of the study and doctoral fellow in mechanical engineering, said in a statement. “Changing the kinetic energy of the person requires more work from the legs and that process certainly burns more energy.”
Researchers measured the cost of changing walking speeds by having study participants change their pace on a treadmill while its speed remained the same, as a way to better mimic real-world walking. Participants alternated between speeding up to move to the front of the treadmill, and slowing down to move to the back of the treadmill.
“Our study suggests that to burn more calories you should change your walking speed fast and often,” Seethapathi told Yahoo Health. “Increasing your pace for one minute every five minutes would surely increase your calorie burn. But this is mainly because you’re 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.”
If you’re walking to lose weight and want to burn more calories as the study suggests, constantly stop and start walking again. For example, walk for three seconds, stop, walk for three seconds, stop, and so on, so you’re expending energy every time you change speeds.
To torch more calories, researchers also suggest walking in a way that feels unnatural. Do things you wouldn’t normally do on your walk, such as walking in a curve instead of a straight line, walking with weights on your legs, or swinging your arms like a crazy person. Basically, unleash your inner Phoebe Buffay and watch those pounds melt.
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