Although interval training and high intensity workouts are very popular these days, the concept is also very useful for people who prefer walking which is very safe and anyone can do it.
It is well known that high intensity exercises control glucose levels in the blood far better than low intensity exercises, such as walking. Although there are many benefits even from leisurely daily walks, researchers at the University of Copenhagen wanted to know whether it would improve the benefits if interval training were incorporated into walking.
The result was a clear YES. The people who introduced interval training into their walking improved glucose metabolism and insulin signaling in the muscles significantly but there was no improvement in the group of people doing steady walking, even if they walked at a higher speed to match the over-all energy expenditure of those who did interval training.
How should you do interval walking? The basic plan is that you walk at a faster pace for one to three minutes, then at a relaxed pace for one to three minutes. At the beginning, however, try to walk at the higher pace for one minute then walk at a relaxed pace for three minutes. If you have not done fast walking before, your leg muscles may take a week or two to get used to the pace, and it is better to stay with the 1/3 ratio for up to a month. After that, you can either lower the relaxing time to 2 minutes then eventually 1 minute, or increase the faster walk part to 2 minutes, then to 3 minutes. Even in the former case, after reaching the 1/1 ratio, you want to increase it to the 3/3 minutes intervals.
How should you determine the “fast” pace? It’s the pace at which after 1-3 minutes of walking, your legs are so tired and that you can’t walk any longer at the same pace. Or you are slightly out of breath.
Probably at beginning, you won’t be able to do more than 5 intervals, but that’s fine. You can walk at your normal pace after that interval training part. In fact, you need to walk at your normal pace for 5 – 10 minutes at the beginning of your walk to warm up your legs. If you suddenly start with the interval training, you may injure yourself or get cramps in your legs.
By the way, do you know the easiest way to increase your walking speed? Swing your arms faster! It will make you walk faster. If interval training is getting too easy, it is time to carry some hand weights to increase the load and swing the arms. It will make you quite tired.
You can even do a high intensity workout if you have a hill nearby. Walk up the hill as fast as you can, then come down very slowly. Depending on how long the hill is, you may not need to do this more than a few times to get a good cardio benefit. The rest of the time, you should walk at a normal pace.
Some cautions: IN GENERAL, walking, even at the faster pace, is usually safe, but like running, the higher the pace, the higher the impact. Make sure that you don’t lock your knee when you land on your foot. Always keep both knees a bit bent and loose to avoid too much impact.
If you have unstable ankles, you may want to wear some ankle supporters before trying to do interval training. At the faster pace, you may be easily lose your balance and twist your ankles. Be safe.