There are many advantages of racewalking for fitness. At high speeds, racewalking actually involves a higher rate of muscle activity and burns more calories per mile than does jogging at the same pace. According to James Rippe, M.D., of the University of Massachusetts, racewalking burns 120 to 130 calories per mile -- that's more than running (which burns between 100 and 110) and certainly more than freestyle walking.
Racewalking also gives your upper body a healthy workout. In order to walk at high speeds, you have to pump your arms vigorously. This movement helps tone and strengthen the muscles in your arms, neck, and chest as it burns calories.
All this extra activity shows up in increased health and fitness benefits. Indeed, elite competitive racewalkers have physiological profiles that are comparable to those of distance runners. They have low body fat and a high ratio of "good" to "bad" cholesterol, according to a study conducted at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Another advantage of racewalking is that it can be practiced as a competitive sport, and it's an excellent way to add challenge to your walking program. It can be practiced and enjoyed in or out of competition. (Try doing a Web search to find the racewalking club nearest you.)
Racewalking does put greater stress on the ankle, knee, and hip joints than does freestyle walking, however. (Whenever you increase the intensity of an exercise, you increase the risk of injury.) But the strain is less than that caused by jogging, because you always have one foot on the ground when you racewalk.
You can lower your risk of injury by beginning your program slowly and increasing your speed gradually; by doing plenty of stretches and allowing your body to warm up before you begin each walk; and by following proper racewalking form. For detailed information on the correct form, continue to the next section.
To learn more about walking, see: