Easy Ways to Calculate Your Speed
and Assess Your Intensity
Taking a brisk walk is an often-recommended form of physical activity for getting and staying in shape. Yet, have you ever wondered, “Exactly how fast is a brisk walk?” “How fast do I need to travel to reap health benefits?”
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults do:
- at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
- or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (or an equivalent combination).1
For walkers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines define moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity as follows:
- Moderate-intensity activity: Walking briskly at a moderate pace of 3.0 – 4.5 miles per hour (mph) on a level surface, inside or outside.2,3,4
- Vigorous-intensity activity: Aerobic-walking or race-walking at a vigorous pace of 5.0 mph or faster.2,3,4
Calculating Your Walking Speed
So, how do you know if you’re walking 3 miles per hour (mph) or faster? Don’t cringe – It just takes a bit of math.
First, you’ll have to know the amount of time and distance you walked. If you know the route you walked, but not the distance, you can drive your route and use the odometer on your car to see the distance. You can also use On the Go Maps, which will let you select your route from point to point and calculate the distance. This is especially helpful if your walk includes trails or other off-road places.
Once you have your time and distance, the math to calculate miles per hour is straightforward. Divide the distance walked (miles) by the time walked (hours) to get your overall speed.
If you walked 1.5 miles in 30 minutes, be sure to convert the minutes to hours first. To do that, just divide your minutes walked (30) by the number of minutes in an hour (60), which gives you 0.5 hours. So, if you walked 0.5 hours, you’d divide your 1.5 miles by 0.5 hours, and your overall speed would be 3 mph.
Assessing Your Walking Intensity Level
If you don’t want to do the math, but want an idea of your walking intensity level, you can use the talk test or relative intensity scale:
|Talk Test||Relative Intensity*|
As a rule of thumb…
A person doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity can talk, but not sing, during the activity.
A person doing vigorous-intensity aerobic activity cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.1
On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is being at rest/sitting and 10 is all out/maximum effort…
Moderate-intensity activity is a level of effort of 5 or 6 on this scale.
Vigorous- intensity activity is a level of effort of 7 or 8 on this scale.1
*Note: Relative intensity describes a person’s level of effort relative to his or her fitness.1
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018. Accessed June 26, 2023. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.
- American College of Sports Medicine. General physical activities defined by level of intensity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Accessed June 29, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/PA_Intensity_table_2_1.pdf.
- Measuring physical activity intensity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 3, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/index.html.
- Benefits and risks associated with physical activity chapter 1. Accessed June 29, 2023. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/publications-files/acsm-guidelines-download-10th-edabf32a97415a400e9b3be594a6cd7fbf.pdf?sfvrsn=aaa6d2b2_0.
- Ather SH. How to convert miles walked to MPH. Sciencing. November 23, 2019. Accessed June 29, 2023. https://sciencing.com/convert-miles-walked-mph-8423329.html.
- Exercise is Medicine – keys to exercise – aerobic intensity. YouTube. April 29, 2009. Accessed June 29, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NU9l12o_4Q8.