Monday, October 26, 2015

For a Better Calorie Burn, Adjust Your Speed While Walking

New research, from Ohio State University, found that changing your pace could burn up to 20% more calories than maintaining a steady stride.

“Most of the existing literature has been on constant-speed walking. This study is a big missing piece,” study co-author Manoj Srinivasan, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said in a university news release.

“Measuring the metabolic cost of changing speeds is very important, because people don’t live their lives on treadmills and do not walk at constant speeds. We found that changing speeds can increase the [caloric] cost of walking substantially,” Srinivasan explained.

People may also be underestimating the number of calories they burn while walking in daily life or playing sports, the study authors said. The researchers estimated that starting and stopping may account for up to 8% of the energy used during normal daily walking. This caloric cost is often not included in calorie-burning estimations, Srinivasan’s group said.

Study lead author Nidhi Seethapathi, added that “walking at any speed costs some energy, but when you’re changing the speed, you’re pressing the gas pedal, so to speak. Changing the kinetic energy of the person requires more work from the legs and that process certainly burns more energy.” Seethapathi is a doctoral fellow in mechanical engineering at the university.

The bottom line, according to the researchers: If you want a bigger calorie burn, walk in a way that feels unnatural to you.

My Take:
Forget that last sentence, altering your gait when walking is an invitation to injury. However, variation of speed is an important aspect of exercise.

This holds for spinning, swimming, running as well as walking. In a typical spinning class I burn about 8 kcal (calories) per minute. Playing tennis, including breaks and between points, I burn 10 kcal per minute. That’s because tennis involves constant change in motion – starting, stopping, turning, moving both forward and backward and side-to-side. As I have mentioned in previous blogs – my spinning, biking, running, and swimming keep me in shape for tennis.

Group classes, like spinning, have many attributes. They are more engaging, more fun, and you can actually develop friendships. However, the major benefit is the instructor who will vary the intensity of the workout for maximum caloric burn in a safe manner. The warm-up is typically slow with light intensity, followed by interval training of increasing intensity and duration, then finally a cool down period, again of lighter intensity. It’s a good pattern to follow with all your exercise activities.

The Bottom Line:
Vary your exercise activity for maximum benefit (and safety). If you use a FitBit or similar device, track your workouts and you will see the increased caloric burn.

Source: October 13, 2015 National Institutes of Health

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