Getting your heart rate up doesn’t always mean you have to break a sweat or run until you can’t no more. If you’re like me and have made daily walks a part of your coping mechanism to deal with the pandemic, then take heart because the opportunity to increase your cardiorespiratory fitness lay right before you in the form of interval walking. For those uninitiated, walking intervals is a type of workout that includes switching between periods of power walking and slower-paced walking.
Like many aerobic exercises, walking intervals can be high in intensity and have long-term health benefits. For one, it’s a form of low-impact exercise that’s easy on your joints, (particularly your knees and hips), since your feet are not slamming into the ground every time you pick up movement. Additionally, the steady repetition of movement helps to increase your muscular endurance over time. Even committing to power walking intervals for 15 minutes can give you a good cardio workout similar to jogging, says FitOn’s walking fitness trainer Sydney Benner.
“When you’re doing interval walking, really the benefit is your cardiovascular health becomes stronger,” says Benner. “If you think of it like HIIT training where it’s a minute on, a minute off, if you look at that in walking, you’re still pushing your heart rate to those same levels.”
The push in heart rate happens on the power walking interval. No matter if you’re going for 15 or 30 seconds (or more) at a time, you want to make sure that you are challenging yourself beyond a regular stroll during the burst—think of this as a rate of perceived effort or exertion of 9 to 10 out of 10. Granted, what is fast looks different for everybody based on fitness level, but you can gauge speed by testing if you can hold a conversation or not. During your power intervals, you shouldn’t be able to say more than a word or two (if you can talk at all), while you should be able to sing or carry on a conversation on your rest intervals.
Learn how to use your fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate:
“You’re trying to basically get breathless where it becomes more challenging to talk as you’re walking, and then you take that rest and recovery for half the duration and then you push yourself again,” Benner explains. For those hoping to take their walking to the next level, here is a beginner level routine to try to that heart rate pumping.
15-Minute Walking Interval Workout
- 30 seconds power walking
- 30 seconds normal walking
- Repeat for 14 minutes
To get the most out of this 15 minutes, consider your form. “You want to make sure that your body is in good alignment,” Benner says. “You want to really draw the belly button to the spine.” And keep your feet parallel to one another for a stellar finish. Don’t forget to warm-up and cool down while you’re at it.
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