Power walking falls between the ramble and the race

Mon Aug 6, 2012 11:23am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If watching the London Olympics has sparked an interest in race walking, with its singular hip-swinging, rolling gait, but the pace is not right, consider power walking, its more easygoing cousin.

Whatever your fitness level, experts say, there will be perks.

"Landing on the heel, rolling to the toes ... using short but fast strides are characteristic of both power and race walking," said Dr. Dixie Thompson, head of the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Race walking has been an Olympic event since 1906.

"Race walking as a competition is very specific," Thompson said. "I would define power walking as a type of walking that is purposely brisk, as a way to enhance fitness and increase caloric expenditure while walking."

Thompson, who has written about walking for fitness for the American College of Sports Medicine, said almost anyone who walks for physical activity could increase his or her pace without getting specific coaching.

"Increasing the pace, even if your technique isn't exactly right, still has a positive outcome," said Thompson, who has been interested in walking for physical activity since the 1990s.

Power walking or speed walking occurs at the upper end of the natural range for the walking gait. But unlike jogging or running, at least one foot is in contact with the ground at all times.   Continued...