Women over 60 need to walk a lot faster outside than the pace of those early evening, after-dinner strolls that they do with their husbands.

All the time I see women outside who appear to be over age 60 doing their fitness walks. I say fitness because often, they’re dressed in sweats or other attire that looks like what you’d wear to the gym.

However, they’re walking casually—not much faster than they’d be doing if shopping.

Many of these walks take place in the early evening; maybe they’re the so-called after-dinner walk, because many people believe that the best time to walk for fitness is after a meal. (It’s actually before!)

Slow walking is associated with higher mortality rates. A University of Pittsburgh study concluded that slow walking in everyday life shortens life span.

You can deduce that slow or even medium paced walking for a planned exercise session will be of little value.

Faster speeds of walking correlate to a longer life, says a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

These two studies aren’t the only investigations into the correlation between walking speed and mortality.

Why don’t more women over 60 walk fast for their outdoor exercise sessions?
This article targets the woman over 60 who does NOT have any medical condition that forcers her to walk less than a fast pace.

So please…if you have osteoarthritis in your knees or hips, persistent sciatica or raging plantar fasciitis, this article does NOT address you.

There’s a huge difference between the 60-plus woman who, while walking only 3 mph, is panting and looks uncomfortable, and the 60-plus woman who, while walking 3 mph, is chatting up a storm with her friend and appears to be quite comfortable. Big difference!

The reason more women over age 60 don’t walk fast (at least 3.5 mph on a zero incline course) is the same reason that many people, even in their 20s and 30s, who walk for fitness, don’t exceed 3.5 mph. It’s not that they can’t. It’s that they don’t realize that slower walking brings on only limited benefits!

If you use a treadmill, you’ll learn to recognize what 3.5 and 4 mph feel like when walking outdoors. To learn how this feels, you must swing your arms on the treadmill rather than hold on.

Holding on is extremely wrong. This site has many articles on why holding onto a treadmill is sabotaging and how to break free of this posture-damaging habit (do a search in the box on the upper right).

This article focuses on how fast a woman over 60 should walk outside for fitness.
The pace should be brisk, enough to get her breathing a lot harder than she normally does.

Addition of a pronounced arm swing will help increase the heart rate. An older woman may have plenty of wind to go around, but find that fast walking quickly taxes her hips or calves.

That’s a sign she’s not as fit as she might think she is. The best way to train is interval style.

This enables you to go all-out and really push it, without killing yourself, because the all-out effort is done for only a very brief period: 30 seconds to two minutes, maybe three, four or five minutes. There are many permutations to interval walking.

The “rest interval” may be 30 seconds, one minute, even several minutes. It’s a peak-and-valley approach that research shows is superior to steady state movement, in which you’re moving at a fairly constant, unchanging pace over an extended time.

A woman over 60 will benefit tremendously with interval walking. The “work intervals” should be fast, enough to make going longer than five minutes very uncomfortable. If a very fast walk fails to tax you…this means you’re ready for jogging or an incline (find some hills in your neighborhood).

monica charltonAll Inclusive Health’s training services include fitness/body composition assessments, nutrition planning, running programs and customized programs for clients with disabilities or injuries.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.