Get fit faster with interval walking

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If you’re someone who walks daily, good for you and keep doing so as it has many health benefits.  But maybe it’s time to pick up the pace and put a little more pep in your step.  Have you ever heard of interval walking?  Similar to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), interval walking is a technique where a person alternates intervals of fast and slow paced walking.   Think of it sort of like walking as fast as you can for up to a minute or more and then slowing down to a moderate walk for a couple of minutes and then repeating that cycle over and over several times. 

Health benefits of interval walking

There are many reasons to consider interval walking which include the following:

·      It’s a great workout keeping your heartrate up while burning more fat in less time.

·      Walking with moderate variations in fast/slow speed has been found to have greater improvements in physical fitness when compared with moderate steady paced walking.

·      Interval walking changes body composition by reducing body fat while increasing muscle mass.  It also has been shown to decrease body weight and improve body mass index (BMI).

·      Blood sugar levels are reduced with interval walking.  The alternating speeds of walking increase the glucose transport proteins inside the muscle cells after exercise allowing muscles to take up more glucose from the bloodstream.

·      Because interval walking involves incorporating some strenuous exercise, it has also been shown to improve endurance and reduce blood pressure.

·      It’s a manageable form of interval training to stick to as it has a low dropout rate. 

Preparing for interval walking

Like with any exercise program, it is best to get your doctor’s approval especially if you have heart disease or joint pain.  It is also recommended to already have had an established walking program in place before embarking on interval walking.  An established walking program would be if you have been walking at least five days a week up to 20 to 30 minutes each time for at least two to three months.  If you have been doing this sort of workout without any physical limitations, then you are probably good to go. 

How to work into interval walking

Like with any new form of exercise, it is best to start off slowly.  If you regularly walk for 30 minutes, introduce one or two segments of fast-paced walking that last about a minute or two during that length of time.  Depending on your current athletic ability, ease yourself into interval walking by increasing the number of alternating speeds each time you walk for a few weeks.

As far as how fast to walk, it is recommended to walk as fast as you can without running.  It should be at a pace that can be done briefly but not for long due to the intensity of it.  As you work your way up adding in more intervals, the goal is to walk at a high intensity of up to 50% of the time.  One way to accomplish this is to walk at a high intensity for one minute then slow down the pace for the next two minutes and repeat. What is right for one person may not be right for you so do what is best for your body and your fitness goals.

What surface to walk on

This is an important consideration to address as there are walking surfaces that will be more conducive and safer to perform interval walking on then others.  The best surface terrain is one that is smooth.  This might include walking on a well-kept nature trail, or a well-maintained smooth sidewalk in your neighborhood or maybe in a shopping mall before the stores open.  Avoid uneven surfaces, rock roads, or any surface making it likely to have a fall or twist an ankle.

Another option is to do interval walking on a treadmill.  Simply increase the speed or incline for a minute or two, then slow it down for a couple of minutes and repeat.  This will give your heart, lungs and muscles a great workout.