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Walking is the chosen form of exercise for many people as it doesn't require specialty equipment and you can do it just about anywhere. It is also a low-impact exercise, so even most people with physical limitations can walk a little. But with more than two-thirds of adult Americans overweight or obese, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, people also need their walks to burn calories. Adding an incline is one way to burn more when walking.
Calories Burned While Walking
All forms of physical activity burn calories, or energy, because all functions and movement require energy. Just getting out of bed starts to burn calories. MayoClinic.com estimates that a 160-pound person will burn approximately 314 calories if they walk for one hour at 3.5 mph. This is about 90 calories a mile. If the same 160-pound person walks a little slower at 2 mph hour, she will burn only 204 calories.
Effect of Incline
Incline increases the intensity of your walk. There is a direct correlation between intensity and calories burned, as shown by the change in calories burned with different walking speeds. Adding even 1 percent gradient to your treadmill walk will burn more calories than walking on a flat surface. Using a treadmill calorie calculator by Graphite.com, it is estimated that the same 160-pound person can burn 442 calories walking at 3 mph on a 6 percent gradient.
All of these numbers are just estimates. Not all 160-pound people are the same and weight is just one factor that affects how many calories you burn. Your fitness level also plays a role. If you are an avid walker, you may burn fewer calories than is estimated because your body works more efficiently during exercise. But adding incline to your workout still will burn more calories. You can wear a heart rate monitor that takes into account your age, gender, resting heart rate, duration of workout and working heart rate to more accurately estimate how many calories you burn.
Adding Incline Safely
Add incline slowly to your workouts. If you are not exercising regularly, start by walking on a flat surface. Build up to a speed that you find challenging, raises your heart rate and keeps it up. Start with as little as 1 percent incline when walking on a flat surface becomes easy. Try to maintain the same speed and see how much more even a little incline challenges you. Some treadmills allow you to add as little as .5 percent at a time so you can go slow, if necessary.