Speed and Exercise Intensity of Recreational Walkers

Elaine Murtagh, Colin Boreham, Marie Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Brisk walking has been identified as anactivity suited to meet American College of SportMedicine/Centers for Disease Control and Preventionrecommendations for moderate intensity exercise (55–69% HRmax, 40–59% VO2R). However, little is knownabout whether recreational walkers self-select a pacewhich elicits this intensity and how they interpret theterm “brisk walking.”Methods. The walking speed of 82 adults was covertlyobserved in a public park. Fifty-nine of theseparticipants demonstrated their interpretation of“brisk walking” and the speed was noted. Eleven ofthese subjects subsequently walked on a treadmill attheir observed and “brisk walk” speeds. Heart rate(HR), respiratory gases, and ratings of perceived exertion(RPE) were measured.Results. Mean observed and “brisk” walking speedswere 1.56 � 0.17 m � s�1 and 1.79 � 0.19 m � s�1 respectively(P <0.001). Mean exercise intensities during thetreadmill test (n � 11) were 59.0 � 13.4% VO2max and67.3 � 11.6% HRmax for the observed speed (1.60 � 0.24m � s�1). The brisk speed (1.86 � 0.12 m � s�1) equated to68.6 � 14.9% VO2max and 78.5 � 15.5% HRmax.Conclusion. The speed and intensity selected by thisgroup of walkers meets current recommendationsfor moderate intensity exercise. Instructing individualsto “walk briskly” prompts more vigorousactivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-400
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2002


  • walking speed
  • exercise intensity
  • brisk walking
  • health.


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