Walking Safely while Increasing Intensity

There are a number of ways to increase the intensity of your walking activity, some are more effective than others.

Nordic Walking is one of the safest ways you can increase your walking intensity, and it has been shown safe for almost any age and ability. Let’s take a look at some of the other methods that have been studied:

The Effect of Weighted Vest Walking

Using a weighted vest can increase the metabolic costs, relative exercise intensity, and loading of the skeletal system during walking.

This study was done with individuals in their mid-20’s while treadmill walking, and while an effective way to increase your exercise intensity, is also an effective way of increasing the load on lower extremities. While this may be beneficial to increasing bone density, it may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those with lower extremity joint issues.

Incline Treadmill Walking

Brisk walking is a recommended form of exercise for obese individuals. However, lower-extremity joint loads and the associated risk of musculoskeletal injury or pathological disease increase with walking speed. Walking uphill at a slower speed is an alternative form of moderate intensity exercise that may reduce joint loading.

Walking slower uphill significantly reduced loading rates and lower-extremity net muscle moments compared with faster level walking.

This is a great benefit for those who have access to a treadmill!

Walking with Ankle Weights or Hand Weights

Adding ankle or hand weights can increase your exercise intensity 5-15%. (study abstract)

However, ankle weights have been shown to be five to six times less efficient than hand weights carried close to the body while walking (study abstract). And weight placed on the feet and ankle while walking may lead to overuse foot injury, repetitive stress foot injury, or even a stress fracture.

Carrying small hand weights does have some benefits, but can increase blood pressure due to the need to grip during activity (study abstract) and may be contraindicated in individuals with cardiac disease (study abstract)

Also, carrying a weight in one hand is more energy demanding than carrying the same total weight distributed between both hands. However, this asymmetrical loading is not a safe option during sustained walking. (study abstract)

How does Nordic Walking compare?

  • Increases exercise intensity – 20%, up to 67% with “vigorous technique” on hills
  • Increases energy expenditure – burns 20-40% more calories than regular walking
  • Lower extremity load – can increase or decrease, dependent on pole technique
  • Increases walking distance and improves walking posture
  • Improves balance and functional ability


Additional Sources: Walking Extravaganza; University of New Mexico

See Also: Medical Studies, and Health Benefits of Nordic Walking

4 thoughts on “Walking Safely while Increasing Intensity

    • I don’t mind at all, it’s information for anyone interested in increasing their activity level, but it’s nice to see collected in one article. I have a number of walkers where safety is a greater concern than intensity, so Nordic Walking can be more appropriate for them than any of the options listed.

      Liked by 1 person

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