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Walking May Burn More Calories Than Previously Thought

Walking is a popular, accessible form of exercise, but it’s not necessarily known for its calorie-burning capacity. That perception might change. A report by Lindsay Ludlow, PhD, and Peter Weyand, PhD, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2016; 120 [5], 481–94), suggests that equations commonly used to determine energy expenditure during walking aren’t up to pace.

The study tested the accuracy of three standardized equations—American College of Sports Medicine; Pandolf, Givoni and Goldman (1977); and Height-Weight-Speed—in forecasting calorie expenditure from walking. Ludlow and Weyand found the equations did not account well for body size and underpredicted calorie-burn in 97% of the cases they examined. Ludlow believes the discrepancies occurred because the equations were originally based on results from a small number of men of average height.

Ludlow and Weyand have now developed a new formula that they say is four times more accurate for adults and kids together and about two to three times more accurate for adults alone.

“Our new equation is formulated to apply regardless of the height, weight and speed
of the walker,” says Ludlow. “And it’s appreciably more accurate.” The equation accounts only for level walking and has not been tested on graded surfaces.

“Our final analysis identified the following concise, generalized equation for predicting level human walking metabolism: VO2 total = VO2 rest + 3.85 + 5.97•V2/Ht (where V [velocity] is measured in [meters per second], Ht [height] in meters, and VO2 in ml O2•kg−1•min−1),” stated the authors in the report.

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