Average Walking Heart Rate + 7 Factors That Can Affect Yours

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There’s probably been a time when you’ve needed to speed walk and push the pace as you were walking to get somewhere on time. Perhaps you were late to catch a flight or went for a walk and realized it was later than you thought, and you had to get home as soon as possible.

You probably started swinging your arms more vigorously and trying to take longer and faster steps to walk as briskly as possible. You also probably noticed that your heart rate increased. Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.

But, what should your heart rate be while walking? What is the average walking heart rate based on age?

Calculating one general average walking heart rate for everyone is next to impossible because it depends on factors such as age, sex, and walking intensity.

Here, we have broken down each of these factors, and explained how you can calculate what your specific average walking heart rate range should be.

A smart watch showing heart rate.

Why Does Your Heart Rate Increase While Walking?

Before determining the average heart rate while walking, it’s helpful to review the basics of heart physiology during exercise.

The autonomic nervous system controls the heart, a branch of the nervous system that automatically controls heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure under unconscious control.

In other words, these functions occur without our deliberate attention to them.

The autonomic nervous system is further divided into two opposing subdivisions: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The dynamic interplay between these two antagonistic subdivisions helps determine your heart rate at any given time, whether it is your resting heart rate vs heart rate while walking or doing some other form of exercise program.

A person checking their heart rate on a GPS watch.

The sympathetic nervous system called the “fight-or-flight“ nervous system, responds to actual or perceived physical or emotional stress.

It has a stimulatory effect on your heart rate. Therefore, when activated, the sympathetic nervous system increases your heart rate.

Nerves connect to a specialized region of the heart known as the sinoatrial, or SA node. This is a special bundle of nerves near the heart’s atria that functions as the “pacemaker“ of the heart.

Essentially, the sinoatrial node sets the rate and rhythm by which the chambers of your heart (atria and ventricles) contract. It controls the electrical conduction through the heart so that the chambers contract and relax in a specific order to make the heart beat.

During exercise, the sympathetic nervous system is activated because exercise is a physical stress on the body.

The muscles and heart need more oxygen to contract forcefully and powerfully to facilitate your movement.

Two people walking outside, checking thier heart rate on a watch.

Therefore, nerves in the sympathetic nervous system communicate with the sinoatrial node of the heart and increase the heart rate above your resting heart rate.

The degree to which your heart rate increases while walking or performing some other type of exercise depends on the intensity of the exercise, your fitness level, and the physical demands of the type of exercise itself.

The more intense the exercise is, the greater the percentage of your total muscle mass involved in the movement and the faster your heart rate will get.

The parasympathetic nervous system, which works in opposition to the sympathetic nervous system, is the “rest and digest“ nervous system. It slows down your heart rate when you are relatively calm and when there is no physical or emotional stress on the body.

For example, your parasympathetic nervous system is primarily in control when lying in bed and taking your resting heart rate.

Nerves from the parasympathetic nervous system also innervate the SA node of the heart, but they cause a slowing of the electrical impulses sent by the pacemaker, decreasing the heart rate.

Related: Normal Resting Heart Rate By Age And Sex

A person walking over a wooden bridge.

What Factors Can Affect Your Average Walking Heart Rate?

With those basics covered, your average heart rate while walking will be higher than your resting heart rate because your body is physically active, and your muscles and heart need more oxygen.

However, the actual heart rate you will attain while walking is, again, largely dependent on numerous factors, including your age, sex, fitness level, and the intensity of your walking workouts.

There can also be other contributing factors, such as medications, additional stress, and genetics.

Let’s briefly touch on each of these and how they may affect your average heart rate while walking:

A person checking their average walking heart rate.

#1: Age

Your age will significantly affect your average heart rate while walking.

Maximum heart rate declines rather linearly with age, so older adults will have a lower average walking heart rate than younger adults when walking at the same relative intensity.

#2: Sex

Men typically have a higher maximum heart rate than women.

Therefore, when comparing the average walking heart rate at the same intensity between a male and female, the heart rate for the man might be slightly higher.

#3: Genetics

Your genetics determine some amount of your maximum heart rate and how your nervous system controls your heart.

That is why age-predicted maximum heart rate equations have a wide margin of error or standard deviation, typically around 11 to 12 beats. There is a fair amount of individual variability between maximum heart rates.

#4: Stress

Health conditions such as stress further activate the sympathetic nervous system and can increase your resting heart rate and heart rate during walking.

Managing your stress level can help you maintain a healthy heart muscle.

According to the American Heart Association, “negative mental health is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, while positive psychological health is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death.”1American Heart Association. (2021, June 21). Stress and heart health. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health

A group of people walking in a park.

#5: Medications

Certain medications affect your heart rate in either direction.

For example, some antihistamines and stimulants will increase your heart rate. At the same time, beta blockers and other hypertensive medications may decrease your heart rate while walking because they slow the heart’s pacemaker.

#6: Intensity of Your Walks

Perhaps the most significant factor that will affect your average walking heart rate is the effort or intensity level at which you are walking.

Whether you are trying to speed walk, walking up an incline, or carrying a heavy load, your heart rate while walking will be higher due to more vigorous exercise than when taking a leisurely stroll.

#7: Fitness Level

Looking at the average walking heart rate at a certain pace or walking speed, fitter individuals will have a lower heart rate while walking at that speed than beginners or deconditioned individuals. 

Cardiovascular adaptations that take place in response to consistent aerobic training improve the efficiency of your heart and cardiovascular system as a whole, allowing for a lower average heart rate while walking or performing exercise.

If you are less fit, you will have a higher resting heart rate and higher walking heart rate than a fitter individual performing the same intensity exercise.

People hiking on a trail.

How Do I Calculate My Target Heart Rate For Walking?

With all of the aforementioned factors, it becomes evident that it’s not easy to describe a specific normal heart rate while walking for all individuals.

According to Dr. Stephen Hammill, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, a 10- to 15-minute brisk walk typically raises the heart rate to 110 to 120 beats per minute. 

However, aside from this general ballpark, the best approach is to look at the guidelines for physical activity and then determine the average heart rate while walking for different age groups.

There are many age-predicted maximum heart rate equations, all of which have some margin of error. The most straightforward equation, 220 – age in years, is suitable enough to provide at least a general target heart rate range while walking by age.

Of course, keep in mind that your own maximum heart rate might be 10 to 12 beats higher or lower than that suggested by this equation.

People walking in a large group on the street.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the moderate-intensity cardio zone increases your heart rate to 50-70% of your max, while the vigorous cardio target heart rate zone elevates your heart rate to 70-85% of your maximum.2Scheid, J. L., & O’Donnell, E. (2019). REVISITING HEART RATE TARGET ZONES THROUGH THE LENS OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY. ACSMʼs Health & Fitness Journal23(3), 21–26. https://doi.org/10.1249/fit.0000000000000477

Therefore, we can say that your average walking heart rate should fall somewhere between 50 and 85% of your maximum heart rate. 

Thus, the following table shows the approximate target heart rate (number of beats per minute) while walking based on age:

AgeMaximum Heart Rate (bpm)Moderate-Intensity Walking Target Heart Rate (bpm)Vigorous-Intensity Walking Target Heart Rate (bpm)

Wearing a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker during walking workouts can help you make sure you are elevating your heart rate into the proper zones in order to meet the guidelines for physical activity for adults set forth by the CDC.3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These guidelines state that you should accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week.

Are you concerned that your walking heart is out of the average range?

If so, you should speak with your healthcare provider to ensure you have no underlying medical conditions, such as a heart condition, and that your cardiovascular health is in check.

Whether you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness and heart health, have a weight loss goal, or improve your overall wellness and well-being, try our 30-day walking challenge for beginners to get started on an exercise regimen.


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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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