The Most Efficient Interval Walking Workout You'll Ever Do

Walking intervals can help you progress to running or simply make your walking workouts more interesting. (Image: gpointstudio/iStock/GettyImages)

If you've been taking regular walks for a while and are looking for a way to take things to the next level, interval walking could be a smart move. This style of walking is more intense than what you might be used to, making it a great option for boosting your endurance and burning more calories.

Here's a basic overview of what interval walking is, how it can help with weight loss and an easy, 30-minute workout to get you started.

What Is Interval Walking?

Interval walking is alternating walking at an easy, steady pace with intense bursts of very fast walking or power walking. The intervals are meant to be hard, so they're quick — typically lasting 30 seconds to a minute or two. Switching back to a slower, easier pace gives you a break and helps you recover before starting the next interval.

How intense are we talking, exactly? There's no one speed that's right for everyone. Instead, it's about alternating hard, fast walking with easy, moderate walking. Your regular, steady speed should pass the talk test — where you can talk comfortably while you walk. But when you're doing an interval, you want to maintain a pace that's fast enough for talking to feel difficult.

Intervals push your body more than walking at a moderate, steady pace. So they're a great way to increase your fitness and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. Best of all, you can do them outside or on a treadmill. All you need is a watch or a timer to keep track of the time.

Is Interval Walking Better for Weight Loss?

If you're walking to lose weight, interval walking can help you reach your goal faster. Intervals are intense bursts of vigorous exercise, so they burn calories in about half the time as steady-state workouts, according to a December 2017 study published in Biology of Sport.

For instance, 30 or 40 minutes of interval walking might burn the same number of calories as a full hour of walking at a slower, steady pace. "That can benefit someone who's walking for weight management," says fitness expert and certified personal trainer Ginny Erwin.

Also? Even though they're vigorous, they're still low-impact compared to workouts like running. "Intervals are a great way to bring more intensity to your walk without the risk of injury," Erwin says. And that helps boost your fitness level, especially as you get older, according to July 2017 research from Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.

Finally, switching up your pace can help you stay more engaged. If you tend to get bored while you walk, adding in some intervals is an easy way to keep things interesting.

Try This 30-Minute Beginner Interval Walking Workout

Getting started with interval walking is easy: All you have to do is add in some quicker, more intense bursts of speed to your usual walk. Try seeing just how fast you can walk. If you're on a treadmill, you could also make things more intense by keeping your speed the same and cranking up the incline instead, making sure you're still walking and not jogging. Or you could try wearing a weighted vest!

How long should your intervals be? "For beginners, try doing two minutes on and one minute off," says Timothy Lyman, certified personal trainer and director of training programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh. Going hard for two full minutes will help you build up your endurance faster and torch more calories.

If you're aiming to do a 30-minute workout, here's what that might look like:

  • 0 to 5 minutes: Warm up at a moderate pace.
  • 5 to 7 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 7 to 8 minutes: Walk at a moderate pace.
  • 8 to 10 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 10 to 11 minutes: Walk at a moderate pace.
  • 11 to 13 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 13 to 14 minutes: Walk at a moderate pace.
  • 14 to 16 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 16 to 17 minutes: Walk at a moderate pace.
  • 17 to 19 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 19 to 20 minutes: Walk at a moderate pace.
  • 20 to 22 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 22 to 23 minutes: Walk at a moderate pace.
  • 23 to 25 minutes: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 25 to 30 minutes: Cool down at a moderate pace.

Tip

Remember, your moderate pace should pass the talk test — where you can talk comfortably as you walk. But your fast pace should be intense enough that talking to feel difficult.

As your fitness improves, you can experiment with making your intervals even more challenging. That might mean swapping out fast walking for jogging or running.

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