Walking burns more calories than previously thought, according to a study published in the journal of Applied Physiology on March 1. Southern Methodist University (SMU) researchers claim current standard formulas that calculate calories burned are inaccurate, hence, they invented a newer, four times more accurate equation to estimate walking energy expenditure.

SMU physiologist Lindsay Ludlow explains that the new equation is formulated to apply regardless of a person’s weight, walking speed and height. This specifically includes an individual’s body size and the effect of height on gait mechanics, unlike leading tests that assume walking energy expenditure is the same for all body types or sizes.

Current formulas assume that everyone burns the same amount of calories while walking up and downhill or while carrying loads, but this new equation shows that bigger people actually burn fewer calories on a per pound basis of their weight to walking at a given distance or speed. Moreover, this simple and accurate solution is four times more accurate for adults and kids together and two to three times more accurate for adults only.

Jennifer Nollkamper and Dr. Lindsay Ludlow assist Dr. Takeshi Fujii in a treadmill test that captures volume of oxygen, volume of expired air and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, all variables that help measure energy expenditure during walking. Photo by Hillsman Jackson/SMU

Jennifer Nollkamper and Dr. Lindsay Ludlow assist Dr. Takeshi Fujii on a treadmill test that captures volume of oxygen, volume of expired air and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, all variables that help measure energy expenditure during walking. Photo by Hillsman Jackson/SMU

 

The study, funded by the US Department of Defense Medical and Materiel Command, adds that the leading standardised “ACSM” and “Pandolf” equations were created for the American College of Sports Medicine and military. These were only based on data from a limited number of males and have been proven to predict fewer burned calories 97 percent of the time.

Predicting correct estimations will determine an individual’s aerobic power and capacity to perform a task to avoid injury. Plus, this new walking expenditure equation has implications not only to the public but to athletes and soldiers as well. Through this, soldiers can identify their body heat, core temperature and heart rate to avoid heat stress and exhaustion during their deployment in harsh environments.

“Soldiers incur a variety of physiological and musculoskeletal stresses in the field,” says SMU Locomotor Laboratory of biomechanics expert Peter Weyand. “Our metabolic modelling work is part of a broader effort to provide the Department of Defense with quantitative tools to help soldiers.”