Outdoor walking speeds of apparently healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Elaine M. Murtagh, Jacqueline L. Mair, Elroy Aguiar*, Catrine Tudor-Locke, Marie H. Murphy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Walking outdoors can be used by many individuals to meet public health guidelines for moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity. The speed at which adults walk may be a proxy for intensity. Traditional estimates of indoor walking speed are unlikely to reflect self-selected usual or other instructed paces of outdoor walking speed. Objective: To inform estimates of pace-based walking speed of apparently healthy adults in outdoor settings. Methods: We searched four electronic databases for articles published in English between January 1970 and March 2019. Studies that reported walking speed (m/s), cadence (steps/min), or intensity (mL/kg/min) of ambulatory, apparently healthy, and community-dwelling adults (> 18 years) were included. Walking speed categories were defined according to the description provided in each study. Meta-analysis was used to synthesise speed, cadence, and intensity data by slow, usual, medium, fast, and maximal pace (where reported). Results: Thirty-five studies, representing 14,015 participants (6808 women, 5135 men, and 2072 sex not specified), were identified. The mean (95% CI) walking speed for slow, usual, medium, fast, and maximal pace was 0.82 (0.77–0.86), 1.31 (1.27–1.35), 1.47 (1.44–1.49), 1.72 (1.64–1.81), and 1.62 (1.45–1.79) m/s, respectively. Mean cadence (95% CI) for usual and fast paces were 116.65 (114.95–118.35) and 126.75 (121.87–131.63) steps/min, respectively. The mean oxygen consumption (95% CI) for the usual and medium paces was 11.97 (11.69–12.25) and 13.34 (12.94–13.73) mL/kg/min, respectively. Conclusion: These findings provide greater clarity with regard to how various indicators of enacted walking pace, speed, and intensity overlap and how each can be best communicated in the real-world setting to optimise health-related outcomes. Pace-based instructions can be used to support walking in outdoor settings within public health guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-141
Number of pages17
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date8 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Oct 2020


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