Power Walking is recommended by doctor and health studies as being easier on the body than most aerobic exercises.  Jogging or running can be destructive to a person’s  feet and joints.  This is especially true for those who are extremely overweight.   Most exercise equipment is rated at about 275 pounds or less.   Power Walking may be the best way a person weighing over 300 pounds can begin an accelerated aerobic program.

Power walking will do more than improve the shape of your body…

…in less time than using regular walking.   Dr. Simpson extols the virtues of walking  because if you do no physical activity your health will be severely impacted no matter how thin you become.  Motion equates to life.  If you have become severely overweight and totally inactive over a period of years, it is imperative that you lose weight by restricting caloric intake.  But, to reverse damage to your cardiovascular system you must improve your circulation to more quickly remove cholesterol plaque from your veins and arteries.  Exercise increases circulation and oxygen delivery to your cells allowing damages to be repaired and a new level of health to be obtained.  If you have been sedentary over a period of years but reject the idea of an accelerated aerobics program such as power walking, for you health’s sake at least take up some form of walking; it will save your life.  Do as Dr. Simpson suggests…walk your dog.

Getting the best shoes for Power Walking

You should never use cheap shoes. Poorly designed shoes will destroy your feet. That rule applies for every day usage as well as for athletics. There are shoes designed specifically for power walking. Many experts state that you can use running shoes for power walking. The first critical feature that must be present is a thick cushioning heal. Power walking requires a heal to toe motion which is the opposite of the toe to heal motion used in jogging or running. You want training shoes not racing shoes. The shoe must be designed with the perfect amount of arch support and flex. If the shoe flexes too easily or is too firm, or does not have proper arch support you will strain your foot and potentially develop foot injuries. Plantar Fasciitis is an overuse injury affecting the sole or flexor surface (plantar) of the foot.

The goal should be a sustained (non-stop) walk at about 4.5 mph

Unless you are already marginally fit, you won’t start at that speed.  You will have to work up to it.  As with any exercise you should warm up prior to actually going full speed.  Stretching is good for you, but you should be careful not to stretch too much when your body is cold.  Otherwise you can tear muscle and ligaments.  Start walking at a lesser gate and speed for a distance prior to gaining your workout gate.  This will allow your muscles to warm up and gently stretch to accommodate the motion, limiting the potential for damage.

You should walk for a set distance and record the time it takes to do it.  A pedometer is a device that can measure your  time, distance, steps and calories burned.  It is a good thing to use if you want to avoid boredom by not walking the same path each time you walk.  Good pedometers are available online for about $20 and they will save you from having to compute your exercise rate using your watch and a calculator.  Without using a pedometer you should start at a known point and walk a set distance at a reduced speed to another known point for your warm-up.  After the warm-up distance you should walk to a third known point at your workout speed.

If all you can manage is a 20-minute mile, don’t worry.  Walk regularly, and within 3 weeks, your rate and endurance will increase.  Persistence is the key.  As your speed increases you will learn what you body feels like when you achieve a sustained aerobic workout.  You will be sweating.  When you start out do 3 to 4 power walks per week.  Increase it to 5 or 6 power walks when you get strong enough to do it.  When your set distance gets easy for you to do while constantly maintaining your  target speed, increase your distance.  Only increase your distance after you absolutely know you have mastered your present distance.  When the distance of your walk gets to a point you don’t want to increase it any further, begin increasing your speed.

Power walking form

Long strides are less efficient than short ones.  This is important for you to remember.  Forcing your legs to go forward will expend much more energy than using shorter but faster strides.  The key word is “force.”  With any aerobic exercise the goal is balance and rhythm.  If you force your motion you will consume 3 to 4 times more energy and thus terminate your workout very quickly.  If you can’t learn to relax and not force your motion you will not be able to do aerobic exercise.  Use a faster but natural walking gait, minimizing exaggeration.  Heel first, then the ball, finally your toe is the order that your feet should contact the earth.

Stand erect, do not lean forward (or backward).  You must balance your torso in the center of the motion of your legs.   Bend your arms at your arms at 90 degrees.  Do not form tight fists.  Relax your hands loosely closed at a 45 degree angle, so they feel like an animal’s paw.  let them swing back and forth from your side slightly crossing the front of your upper stomach.

Beginning your Power Walking program

You have decided to get in shape after years of not exercising.  You are excited and maybe you have told your friends and family about your exercise goals.  Maybe you haven’t had enough time to exercise in the past, because of raising children and/or working a challenging career.  You are convinced that now, because you have the precious time to do it, that it can’t be that hard.  It’s just repetitive motion isn’t it?  You have read up on exactly how to do it and know you are ready to go.  You have set your distance.  You get out on the track,  begin, and end in a little over 5 minutes huffing and puffing totally out of breath.  Wow, that was harder than you thought it would be!  You are very disappointed in yourself, and have confirmed to yourself just why you haven’t done this all of your life.  So what do you do now…go home?

NO…now is the time you use intervals, at the beginning of your program when you must build endurance.  When you run out of gas after your first five minutes, walk slower to regain your breath.  When you regain your breath go back up to your workout gait.  Do this until you make your distance (start with a mile at first).  Time your entire workout as outlined above.  Soon your overall workout time will reduce and ultimately the day will come when you no longer have to stop and regain your breath, you will attain your goal of walking straight through with no intervals.

BE AWARE OF YOUR HEART.  You must get a physical from your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program to determine if you are healthy enough to do it.  If you are overweight you may have clogged veins and arteries.  Physical activity is one of the best counters to high cholesterol.  Too much physical activity with clogged veins and arteries can kill you.  You doctor may tell you to limit your workout at the outset until your cholesterol and blood pressure go down.

Measure your heart rate…especially if you are out of shape and just starting out.  When your heart rate climbs well above your target rate, slow down until it stabilizes a little below the target rate.  Then slowly increase your gait speed until it is at target.  After a while your cardiovascular system will strengthen and you will have to increase your gait speed to maintain your heart rate at target.  Won’t that be a great feeling to actually see you heart and arterial/vascular system become stronger?

Drink Water…

If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you’ll need to drink extra water to compensate for that fluid loss.  Drink at least 2 cups of water two hours prior to your workout.

You can use a water bottle belt to carry water that you can easily access during your workout.   Hydration Packs are water systems that are typically carried on your back using a back-pack type harness.  Hydration packs use a tube with a valve at the end so that a simple bend of the neck and a bite introduces your mouth to the water it craves.  They are stylish and comfortable and include hip or backpack harnesses.  Do not exercise during the hottest time of day during hot weather.  Exercise at dawn or dusk to avoid the heat.

Who is Power Walking for?

Power Walking may be best for extremely overweight or out of shape people who will have difficulty raising their legs to do a jogging motion.   It may be best for people that are too heavy for a machine such as an elliptical or treadmill. Power walking at 4.5 to 5.5 mph is almost as efficient as jogging. The walking gait gives significantly less impact to the joints. It can be used while a person is in the process of bringing their weight down to a range that they can jog, use an elliptical machine or other aerobic exercise.


Before using this information or beginning any exercise program, consult your physician. This is especially important for persons over the age of 35 or with pre-existing health problems.  Dr. Terry Simpson and all of his affiliated organizations assume no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained by or through use of this information.