Walking is a popular, safe, and enjoyable way to shed pounds and get in shape. Adding interval walking to an established regimen can help accomplish fitness and weight loss goals much faster. Interval walking alternates periods of steady walking with bursts of faster-paced walking. This is a great way to burn extra fat and calories, and lose weight. Intense, fast-paced walking is alternated with periods of steady walking which are called recovery periods because you can allow your heart rate and breathing to slow down a bit to prepare for the next high intensity, aerobic interval. All you need is a pair of walking shoes, a wristwatch and permission from your doctor to get started.
Interval walking has many benefits, including:
- Burns calories at a higher rate. More calories are burned during the periods of faster-paced walking.
- Improves cardiovascular fitness and strengthens the heart.
- Burns more fat. More fat is burned during the periods of faster-paced walking.
- Adds variety and goals to a walking routine.
- Avoids the plateau. Creates constant challenges to prevent 'settling' onto a plateau, which slows your weight loss progress.
- Improves your overall fitness level.
Interval walking (training) is easy to incorporate into any routine. The first thing is to start slowly. Add one or two 3 to 5-minute high-intensity intervals to walks while building stamina. As stamina increases, add additional high-intensity intervals to your walks. When you are comfortable, consider changing entire walks into an interval training program once or twice a week.
There are two ways to heighten intensity during interval training. Increase walking speed or increase resistance level by walking up hills or increasing the incline on the treadmill. Pay attention to how you feel and adjust the length of intervals accordingly. During faster-paced intervals, increase speed or resistance levels enough to make conversation difficult, this 'talking test' will help determine if enough energy is being expended to be considered high intensity. Take advantage of 'recovery' intervals, slow the pace or decrease resistance levels until your heart beat and breathing slow down; allow the body some rest before beginning the next high intensity interval.
If you've never done interval training before, here are a couple helpful tips:
- Warm up by walking until you become warm and feel your heart beat a little quicker.
- Slow down if you feel overtired or are in any pain. You can always pick up the pace again. It won't take long to build stamina, and you'll begin to see the benefits in a couple weeks.
When you begin, try to walk for two minutes at a normal pace, then increase speed or resistance level for two minutes; return to normal walking pace for two minutes and again increase your pace or resistance level for another two minutes. Try to continue this pattern for your entire walk.
You'll be surprised at the difference adding interval walking to your fitness program makes! It's a great way to lose weight and improve overall fitness.