Speed and exercise intensity of recreational walkers

Prev Med. 2002 Oct;35(4):397-400. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2002.1090.


Background: Brisk walking has been identified as an activity suited to meet American College of Sport Medicine/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for moderate intensity exercise (55-69% HR(max), 40-59% VO(2)R). However, little is known about whether recreational walkers self-select a pace which elicits this intensity and how they interpret the term "brisk walking."

Methods: The walking speed of 82 adults was covertly observed in a public park. Fifty-nine of these participants demonstrated their interpretation of "brisk walking" and the speed was noted. Eleven of these subjects subsequently walked on a treadmill at their observed and "brisk walk" speeds. Heart rate (HR), respiratory gases, and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were measured.

Results: Mean observed and "brisk" walking speeds were 1.56 +/- 0.17 m. s(-1) and 1.79 +/- 0.19 m x s(-1) respectively (P < or = 0.001). Mean exercise intensities during the treadmill test (n = 11) were 59.0 +/- 13.4% VO(2max) and 67.3 +/- 11.6% HR(max) for the observed speed (1.60 + 0.24 m x s(-1)). The brisk speed (1.86 +/- 0.12 m x s(-1)) equated to 68.6 +/- 14.9% VO(2max) and 78.5 +/- 15.5% HR(max).

Conclusion: The speed and intensity selected by this group of walkers meets current recommendations for moderate intensity exercise. Instructing individuals to "walk briskly" prompts more vigorous activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness
  • Self Efficacy
  • Walking / physiology*