Getting started with a new walking or jogging routine can be exciting and a little nerve wracking. It’s only natural after a walk or two to wonder, “Am I doing this right? Am I walking fast enough? Should I be jogging or running, instead? How do I compare to other walkers and joggers? What even is the average walking speed?”
Before you get too caught up in the comparison game, remember that any walk or jog you do is better than doing nothing at all. In fact, increasing your daily step count (regardless of pace) can help improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. So you’re doing your body good no matter your speed or intensity.
That said, knowing how to gauge your progress and make improvements to your walking and jogging speed over time can lead to more advantages. So here’s what you need to know about the average walking speed and jogging speed, as well as when and how to change up your own pace.
The average walking speed and jogging speed in the United States
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that “average walking speed” and “average jogging speed” are just that—the average. That means some people go faster, and others slower. So when you’re just starting out, it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling on your walk or jog, rather than getting caught up in what you should be doing based on averages.
Also, it’s important to note that averages are different for males and females, and that average walking speed and jogging speeds tend to slow with age. In other words, a 20-year-old man is likely to walk faster than a 60-year-old, and may walk faster than his 20-year-old female counterpart, as well.
What the research says about average walking speed
In a 2011 study published in PLOS ONE, researchers used accelerometer data to measure the walking speed of participants in their day-to-day life. The results found that participants walked between 2.3 and 4.6 miles per hour, with a median walking speed of about 2.8 miles per hour. Of course, this is just a single study, and it measured walking in everyday life, which could vary from ambling slowly from the couch to the refrigerator to speed walking to an elevator to catch it before the door closes.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2021 in the journal Sports Medicine, researchers looked at outdoor walking speeds across 35 different studies. Based on the results, researchers broke the average speeds down into categories of slow, usual, medium, and fast, with results averaging 1.8, 2.9, 3.3, and 3.8 miles per hour, respectively.
So if you’re using national averages to assess how fast you should aim to walk while exercising, a good goal for average walking speed is 2 to 4 miles per hour, depending on your fitness level and age.
What the research says about average jogging speeds
When it comes to jogging, judging averages is a little trickier simply based on the idea of “what are we averaging?” Most people don’t just jog around in daily life, unless they’re trying to run to catch a plane, stop their child from running into the street, or the like. So the information available is largely gathered from compilations of data found on fitness and running apps. This means it’s from people who are jogging (or walking or running) for distance on a regular basis, biasing the sample size toward those who are more consistently training for distance running, rather than an average that includes all possible demographics (like perhaps the less-competitive newbies).
This is further confused by the fact that “jogging” and “running” are technically two different things. Jogging is typically considered speeds between 4 to 6 miles per hour (a 10- to 15-minute mile), while running is considered anything faster than 6 miles per hour (a 10-minute-per-mile pace).
That said, based on stats released by Strava in 2017, the average speed to complete a mile was 9:48—that’s slightly more than a 6-mile-per-hour pace, which technically crosses over into the “running” category of speeds. In other words, this implies the data gathered skews more toward runners than joggers, further highlighting that it’s hard to pinpoint an “average” speed when it comes to lower-intensity jogging because it’s hard to find a good data set. The 2021 Strava report points to a similar average pace, based on the average run length and distance.
So if you’re just getting into jogging, aiming for an average jogging speed of 4 to 6 miles per hour is a good bet. And if you gradually want to work your way into running at faster speeds, know the average pace tends to hover just above 6 miles per hour.
How to find your ideal walk or jog speed
Averages mean very little when you, an individual, are starting a walking or jogging routine. It’s most important to find a pace that works for you, rather than to worry about what is or isn’t the “average.” And finding a good speed takes a little trial and error.
Here’s how to help you find what works for you:
The “Halfway Test”
“My personal favorite tip for finding your perfect pace is the ‘halfway test,’” says Erin Beck, C.P.T., director of training and experience for STRIDE Fitness. “The first half of your walk should feel like, ‘Hey, I got this. I could keep this up for a while.’ Once you hit halfway (either of the time you’ve set aside for your walk, or your halfway distance), you should start to feel like, ‘Uh-oh, I may not have this. I’m going to need a break pretty soon!’”
This is essentially a reminder not to start out too fast and furious—it’s okay to pick a doable pace, as long as you do a mid-point check-in. “If you’re starting to feel tired halfway through, try to hold your speed for the second half. Or, if your heart rate is still fairly calm and you think you can increase your speed, go for it,” Beck says.
If the “halfway test” feels a little nebulous to you, it’s not the only way to self-monitor your speed. In fact, there are a couple other good ways to do so, whether you’re walking or jogging.
The “Talk Test”
“With my clients, I like to use a cue I call ‘conversational pace,’” says Heather Hart, RRCA-certified running coach and co-founder of Hart Strength & Endurance. “I tell them to imagine they’re running with a friend they haven’t seen in a long time, and they’re catching up with a conversation. They should be running (or walking) at an effort where they can speak in short sentences, without feeling winded or out of breath.”
This is a particularly helpful way to gauge your intensity if you are, in fact, walking or jogging with a buddy. Without having to clock your speeds or pay attention to distances or times, you can determine whether you’re maintaining a reasonable pace.
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
To determine a good walking or jogging speed for you, Hart also suggests considering your personal rate of perceived exertion, or RPE. This is a sliding scale of exertion based from 1 to10. “One is fast asleep in bed. Three is a super fast walk to try and get to your gate on time at the airport (but there’s no need to run). Seven is ‘this is a pretty hard run, but I can keep going for a little longer.’ Ten is running for your life from a bear,” explains Hart. That basically means your “sweet spot” for a walk or jog should range from a 3 to 6, and if you’re jogging, specifically, “a good easy pace to build endurance is usually around a 4 to 5,” says Hart.
Increasing your average walking or jogging speed—the right way
Maybe you want to walk faster, or maybe you want to gradually move from a walking workout to a jogging routine—either way, there are two factors that play a role. This includes when you should increase your speed, and how you should go about doing it.
When to increase your walking or jogging speed
One of the best ways to end up injured is to start doing too much, too soon when it comes to your workout. Increasing your speed, distance, or even the number of workouts you’re doing each week before your body is ready for it won’t do you any long-term favors.
“I prefer to have my new clients build up to the point where they’re comfortable with three to four workouts a week, for around six to eight weeks, before incorporating speedwork,” says Hart. And while she’s referring specifically to jogging or running clients, she emphasizes that the same parameters apply to walkers. “This allows the client time to begin making the physical adaptations necessary before adding the increased stress of speed. It also gives them time to work on fine-tuning other aspects, such as finding the right shoes, becoming familiar with pacing and effort, and feeling comfortable with form.”
If, after six to eight weeks of consistent walking or jogging workouts, you’re starting to feel like your workouts are getting easier, and you’re getting better at gauging your effort, you might want to consider adding some speed sessions to your weekly schedule to help bump up your personal average pace.
How to safely increase your walking or jogging speed
Once you’ve determined you’re ready for speed work, embrace the mantra, “slow and steady.”
“When clients are ready to start speedwork, we start small,” emphasizes Hart. How she does that: “One speed workout per week that includes a sufficient warmup and focuses on shorter, faster intervals. This workout does not have to be long or taxing.”
It’s important to remember “speedwork” and “faster intervals” are all relative to your starting point. “For beginners, it’s a great idea to just start by incrementally increasing the amount of time you set out to jog (or walk faster) versus your standard pace. The faster intervals should still be at a fairly easy pace. When you start to feel winded, it’s a good idea to switch back to your original speed, until you feel ready to speed up again,” says Serena Marie Hunt, RD and RRCA-certified running coach.
If you need a little more guidance on how to go about implementing intervals, Hunt suggests a loose form of Fartlek training. “Fartlek runs (or walks) can be done by simply choosing a point in the distance and speeding up to reach it. You should feel tired but not totally exhausted when you complete your interval,” she says. You repeat that push to a tree, car, or other landmark a few times throughout your workout, allowing recovery intervals in between, before you wrap it up.
The benefit of adding “bursts” of speed to your walks or jogs
Keep in mind: More speed isn’t necessarily better, and small, consistent changes will really pay off, both for your performance, and your health. In fact, even if you’re having a hard time meeting walking goals related to distance or time (like 10,000 steps per day, or 30 minutes of activity per day), implementing occasional bursts of increased walking speed may carry many of the same health benefits, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine and another in JAMA Neurology.
The first study focused on daily step count and walking intensity and the associated risk of incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as mortality from these conditions and all-cause mortality; the latter focused on daily step count and walking intensity and its association with incident of dementia. Both examined UK Biobank data, which involves more than 78,000 individuals.
“Walking pace is tied closely with intensity, and this is tied to heart rate. Walking at a faster pace will lead to an increase in intensity. For adults who may not be very active, increasing walking intensity (pace) for short periods during the day can improve aerobic capacity,” explains Matthew Ahmadi, postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Sydney’s School of Health Sciences and an author on both JAMA studies.
Ahmadi says the goal should be to walk a little faster than your comfortable walking speed. “This can improve your overall cardiovascular health which will lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, [it will] help maintain brain health by lowering the risk for vascular dementia, and [it will] improve body inflammation and immune responses, which can lower the risk for cancers,” he explains.
In other words, a little bit of effort, and a slow and steady approach to your walking or jogging program, can go a long way.
The bottom line on average walking speed and jogging speed
While knowing the general population’s average walking and jogging speeds can help motivate you to move more, it’s smart to focus on your own average pace and consider working to improve upon that pace. The key, though, is gradually getting faster.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see new exercisers making is making all of their workouts too difficult. It’s incredibly important to include recovery and ‘easy’ days, so that in turn, you can make your harder workouts hard enough. The recovery aspect of training is equally as important. Those who make the most progress are those who truly learn the discipline to go easy when they need to,” Hart says.
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