There are several measurements that are commonly used to measure distance in the metric system, such as the meter, centimeter, and kilometer.
A kilometer (km) is equivalent to 0.62 miles and 1,000 meters. The word originates from the French 'kilomètre', formed from the Greek 'khilioi' (later chilioi) meaning 'a thousand'. The second half of the word comes from the Greek 'metron', meaning 'measure'.
Most people around the world measure the distance from one location to the next in kilometers. Most national speed limits in countries that use the metric system are also in kilometers per hour. As such, it can be helpful to mentally picture how far a kilometer is so you can better estimate distances.
In this article, we'll look at how you can visualize kilometers, including mental and physical references you can use.
The best way to visualize a kilometer is to think about how long it is in relation to distances or lengths that you are familiar with. For example, if you know how long an American football pitch is (110 meters), you can work out that a kilometer is just over nine times the length of a football pitch (9 x 110 = 990 meters).
Another way is to measure how far the distance is from one point to another and how long it takes you to walk or drive it. You may know that it takes you around 10 minutes to walk from your house to the local shops. As the average healthy adult can walk a kilometer in approximately nine minutes, it's likely that your house and the shops are roughly one kilometer away from one another.
Continue reading to find out other ways that you can picture the distance of a kilometer and tools that can accurately measure distances for you.
To get a feel for how far a kilometer is, you should regularly walk or drive the distance. However, you should base the distance on landmarks rather than the time it takes you to walk, run or drive it. You could take 12 minutes to walk a kilometer if you went for a leisurely walk along a country path, but you could shave a few minutes off this time if you set off at a brisk pace.
If you were to walk or run along an official route or partake in an event, you should be able to follow markers. This means that you can time yourself walking from one marker to the next and see how long it took you.
Over time, you should become familiar with how far a kilometer is, which will help you to measure longer distances. For example, if you are running a marathon (which is approximately 42km), you could see it as the same distance as walking eight times around your local park.
The speed limit for most motorways in European countries is 120 or 130 km per hour. This is equivalent to 74mph or 80mph. Most urban European roads have a speed limit of 50km/h, which is equivalent to 31mph. You could base the distance from one side of the city to another by the time it takes you to drive there and the speed you were traveling at.
Sometimes it's easier to visualize a kilometer if you know how long it is in relation to other lengths. A kilometer is just over nine American football fields long (a typical field is 110 meters long). Most runways are between 2,500 to 4,000 meters long, which is approximately two and a half to four kilometers long.
The tallest statue in the world, the Statue of Unity (in Gujarat, India), is 182 meters tall. You would need to place five and a half statues of this height on top of one another to measure roughly the same distance as a single kilometer.
An active adult will take approximately nine minutes to walk one kilometer at a moderate pace. Experienced runners should be able to run a kilometer in six minutes or less. The world record for running a kilometer is 2:11.96, but this record hasn't been beaten since it was set in 1999.
By knowing these speeds, you can think about how fast your walking or running pace is and time how long it takes you to walk a measured distance. It's a good idea to look at a physical map or Google Maps and measure how far one landmark is from another. You should then walk the route and time yourself to see how long it takes you to walk or run it. This will give you a good idea of how many kilometers you can travel in an hour.
Once you know your average walking or running speed, you'll be able to plan routes to take. If you walk quickly and have good endurance, you may choose to take longer routes. However, if you are a slow walker and run out of energy after only a few kilometers, you may decide to take shorter routes until you can build up your endurance.
Kilometer odometers are used to measure the length of kilometers. This tool works by counting how many times a wheel rotates and calculating the distance traveled based on the number of wheel rotations.
A digital odometer is used in vehicles to count how many times the wheels turn. The number of rotations is then translated into the distance traveled. This tool is used in conjunction with the speedometer, which measures how many kilometers the vehicle is traveling per hour.
For measuring shorter distances, you can use a handheld odometer, sometimes known as a surveyor's wheel, clickwheel, or trundle wheel. The device has a long handle and a wheel attached to one end. The circumference of the wheel is usually one meter, although the size can vary. You have to roll the wheel along the flat ground while walking at a steady pace. The device will click once the wheel has rotated a full turn. You can then count how many times the device clicks to see how far you have traveled.
It can be hard to keep track of the clicks if there is a large number. It may be easier to divide a large distance into smaller portions to make it more manageable to measure. You need to measure the point at which you start and stop pushing the odometer so you have reference points for the distance. Remember to pick the wheel up when you reach the end destination so that you don't accidentally record any further distances.
The handheld odometer can only be used for estimates as there are a number of factors that can affect its accuracy. For example, the wheel's rotation could be affected if you change the speed at which you push the device. The measurement can also be altered if you push the wheel over bumpy surfaces or over ground that has an elevation change.
You can also use an app on your phone or a pedometer that can measure how many steps you've taken and how far you've traveled. Rather than measure the turning of a wheel, these devices measure your stride length to calculate how far you have walked automatically.
Kilometers are the longest unit of measurement in the metric system. This means that it's ineffective to use a smaller measuring tool, such as a centimeter ruler or a meter stick, when measuring a long distance.
It's a good idea to mentally visualize how far a distance is so that you know how long it will take to travel it. If you'll be walking a long distance that will take a couple of hours, it's a good idea to take enough water so that you stay hydrated. It's also a good idea to schedule rest stops if you know that you'll struggle to walk or run the distance in one go.
If you are running a long distance, it can help with your motivation if you know how far you have already traveled and how far you have left to go. For example, a marathon can seem intimidating if you look at it as the full 42km. However, if you know you have already run 20km, you can visualize that you are nearly halfway through the race and that you need to repeat the distance you have previously run.
Visualizing distance is a good way to work out the perspective needed in photographs or drawings. You can work out how large buildings need to be in the foreground in comparison to buildings in the background to frame a drawing perfectly. A photographer may also have to work out where they need to stand in order to get a monument in the shot when they take a picture of a city skyline.
You can estimate a distance if you know how far something is in comparison to it. For example, Friend A lives two kilometers away, and it takes you twenty minutes to walk there. Friend B lives a further ten minutes from Friend A's house, which means that the estimated distance from your house to Friend B's house is three kilometers.
Another way to estimate distance is to use your thumb. First, you need to hold your arm outstretched with your thumb up. Line your thumb up with a chosen object and close one eye. Whilst keeping your thumb in the same position, open your eye up again. Your thumb should appear as if it has moved, even though you kept it still.
You should look at how far your thumb appears to have 'moved'. It's easier to use something in the foreground to see how your perception has changed. For example, a park bench is typically 1.8 meters (six feet long). If your thumb appears to have moved half the length of the bench, that's approximately 1 meter (three feet) difference. You need to times this amount by 10, which means that the park bench is roughly 10 meters (32.8 feet) away from you.
This method isn't completely accurate, but it can help you to guess how far away an object is from you roughly. You may be a few meters off, but it will give you a respectable estimate that should be somewhere in the right region.
A kilometer is equivalent to 1,000 meters and 0.62 miles. The length of an American football field is approximately nine kilometers long, and takes 12 minutes on average to walk at a moderate pace. A healthy adult can run one kilometer in approximately six minutes.
Visualization is a good way to give context to distances. If you know the length or distance of an object or location, you can use it to help you imagine the length of something else. Many people use the length of football fields to give context because they are normally the same size.
For a more accurate reading (especially if you are measuring long distances), you could consult a digital odometer. These devices record how far you have traveled based on the number of times your vehicle's wheels rotate. You could also use a handheld odometer, which works in a similar way, although they are less accurate.