Get Out There

Changing Your Stride Can Burn More Calories

If you are in a hotter area of the country, strenuous exercise is out. But a nice walk early in the morning or later in the evening, when it’s cool, might be a great way to stretch your legs and get your heart pumping.

If you want to burn calories, you probably try to optimize your walk. Simply switching up the cadence of your stride could boost your metabolism. Researchers from the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst found that having a non-uniform stride played a “significant role” in burning more calories.

Changing your stride doesn’t mean speed. The research doesn’t mean you have to take up running or strolling. It’s all about the size of each step and the speed at which you take them. If you take longer strides, you go farther. If you take smaller strides, you go a shorter distance. And if you mix them all together, you’ll boost the calories you burn on your journey.

The study had people usually walk on a treadmill for five minutes. The people took steps five to 10 percent shorter or longer than their normal stride.

The researchers monitored the participants’ carbon dioxide levels that rise as people exercise. They found that varying step length by 2.7 percent can increase metabolism by 1.7 percent. The scientists called the difference modest but significant. Every one percent increase in variability raised the number of calories burned by 0.7 percent.

While the difference might not be huge, it might make a difference over longer walks. Maybe you are someone who enjoys celery because it’s almost calorie-free. Maybe you jiggle your leg or twirl a pen all day because you know that non-exercise movement can burn 350 calories a day. If that’s you, this is a find to get excited about; just changing your gait helps you burn extra fuel!  

The researchers acknowledged that results in a lab are very controlled and different from walking in the real world. We all have our comfortable gait. People in the study had to be reminded and given feedback about their step size. Doing it all by yourself is harder.

Even with the limitations, study co-author Adam Grimmitt, an expert in exercise physiology at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst, said, “I think it would be fair to assume that more frequent and larger variations in stride length would increase your metabolic rate while walking.”

So, mix up your stride on your next walk to burn more calories and see the benefits that come your way!

Banner image: Emre Akyol via Pexels

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