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Interval Walking
The Better Walking Workout

Interval Walking Training
Interval Walking Training

Movement is medicine. The proof is in the results. In a study of adults with type 2 diabetes, half of the subjects were able to quit their medication within a year of starting a regular exercise program.

Results like that are common in hundreds of studies and it's not just good for diabetics. Doctors have found that exercise can be just as effective as drugs for helping people at risk of heart disease, to reduce the risk of cancer, to delay mental decline and as rehabilitation after a stroke.

Researchers know it's good for you. The problem is, many doctors have no idea how much, or what type of exercise to “prescribe.” You can't just tell someone, “you have to get some exercise.” People need direction about what's appropriate.

That's where some compelling new research can help.

As smartphones have multiplied around the world, their abilities to track your daily activities have gradually improved. One of the most common measurements most make is to track how many steps you take. The magic number most people are told to shoot for is 10,000 steps a day. It's a nice round number that researchers have found can significantly improve health if you do it consistently.

There's just one little problem. 10,000 steps is around five miles, and it can take a lot of time to hit that goal every day. Most people want to be healthy, but few people want to spend two or three hours a day to get there.

Now researchers at the Mayo Clinic have figured out something that works in less time. It's called Interval Walking Training or IWT. It combines faster high-intensity walking with periods of slower, lower intensity walking.

The program is relatively simple. You start out walking at 70% of your maximum capacity for three minutes, then drop that down to 40% of your capacity for the next three minutes. Repeat at least five times. That's a total exercise time of only 30 minutes, with the intense time lasting only 15 minutes.

To make sure you're pushing yourself the right amount, you should get a heart rate monitor. Then use a simple online calculator to figure out your “training heart rate.” (Go to WeBeFit.com and click on CALCULATORS for a free one we provide.) You need to write down what your training heart rate is for zone one and zone two.

Begin with a warm-up. Start at an easy pace, but gradually increase the speed over five minutes. Now you're ready to start the intervals.

Standard Program

For the first three minutes, try to keep your heart rate in the upper range of zone two, followed by three more minutes below zone one. Repeat this five times.

You don't have to push yourself for hours every day. Researchers found improvements leveled off once people got beyond four IWT sessions a week.

Beginning Program

If you're a beginner, a full three minutes might be too long. You can start with very short intervals. For 30 seconds, walk quickly and put some effort into it. Try to get your heart rate in the upper range of zone two. Your stride will be longer than normal walking and you'll start to breathe deeper. After the interval, return to a normal walking pace for the next two minutes.

Repeat that interval, a 30-second burst of speed followed by two minutes of regular walking. You should try to complete at least five interval sets.

Over time gradually increase how long the intervals last. Try 40 seconds with two minutes of rest, then 50 seconds, and so on until you're up to intervals that last a full three minutes.

The average age of the people who participated in the study was 65. Researchers only tracked them for 5 months, but in that short time they saw a 14% improvement in their aerobic capacity and a 17% decrease in lifestyle-related disease.

See what you can do in the next five months.

Read the Study Here:

Mayo Clin Proc. 2019 Dec;94(12):2415-2426. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.04.039. Epub 2019 Aug 30.

High-Intensity Walking Time Is a Key Determinant to Increase Physical Fitness and Improve Health Outcomes After Interval Walking Training in Middle-Aged and Older People.


Masuki S1, Morikawa M2, Nose H3.

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