Adding a little variation makes an afternoon walk much more effective.

By Samantha Zabell
Updated October 09, 2015

If walking is your workout of choice, you’ll love the latest news from Ohio State University. A good, brisk walk has a host of health benefits, but, it turns out, varying your walking speed may burn up to 20 percent more calories than walking at a steady pace.

A September 2015 study published in the journal Biology Letters revealed that changing speeds burns energy, and researchers estimate four to eight percent of the energy burned comes from the energy it takes to start and stop walking. Changing speed is like "pressing the gas pedal," explained researchers, and any change requires more leg effort. To test, researchers asked participants to change their pace on a steady-moving treadmill. When people attempted to beat the speed of the treadmill or walk slower than the belt, the "metabolic cost," or calories burned, was higher. Previous studies attempted to simulate a similar situation by changing the speed of the treadmill, which was not as effective, because the treadmill belt actually shoulders some of the effort.

Other than oscillating speeds, lead researcher Manoj Srinivasan, head of the Ohio State Movement Lab, offered other ideas for a more effective walking workout.

“Just do weird things,” he said in a statement. “Walk with a backpack, walk with weights on your legs. Walk for a while, then stop and repeat that. Walk in a curve as opposed to a straight line.”