Vancouver Sun

In­ter­val train­ing helps walk­ers boost re­sults

In­ter­val train­ing helps walk­ers get bet­ter re­sults


When you think of high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing, walk­ing prob­a­bly isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Af­ter all, HIIT work­outs are usu­ally associated with mul­ti­ple rep­e­ti­tions of high-en­ergy ex­er­cises like burpees, sprint­ing and pushups, which isn't in the same league as go­ing for a walk around the neigh­bour­hood. Still, HIIT work­outs aren't defined by the type of ex­er­cise, but by how the work­out is struc­tured.

HIIT in­volves re­peated short bouts of high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise in­ter­spersed with bouts of ac­tive re­cov­ery. Touted for its ef­fi­ciency, it boasts im­prove­ments in health and fit­ness equal to or greater than tra­di­tional steadys­tate work­outs, but in less time. The down­side is that for HIIT to be ef­fec­tive, the work in­ter­vals need to be per­formed at close to max­i­mum ef­fort, which isn't for ev­ery­one.

On the other end of the spec­trum is a walk­ing work­out, which is typ­i­cally per­formed at a mod­er­ate in­ten­sity sus­tained through­out the work­out. Mov­ing at a com­fort­able en­er­getic pace is an eas­ier and more en­joy­able form of ex­er­cise for a large ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion. But it takes a lot of walk­ing to match the phys­i­o­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of a HIIT ses­sion.

Given the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two work­outs, the folks who love HIIT aren't the same ones you see briskly walk­ing around the neigh­bour­hood in their work­out wear. But there's one el­e­ment of a HIIT work­out that most ex­er­cis­ers — even those who pre­fer some­thing a lit­tle less sweat-in­duc­ing — seem to en­joy: the va­ri­ety that comes from mix­ing it up with in­ter­vals.

With that in mind, a team of re­searchers from the U.K. de­cided to com­pare an in­ter­val walk­ing work­out with a timematche­d steady-state walk to see if it was an ef­fec­tive op­tion for any­one will­ing to take their walk­ing work­out up a notch.

“We hy­poth­e­sized that in­ter­val walk­ing would elicit mean­ing­fully greater en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture than con­tin­u­ous walk­ing and that par­tic­i­pants would report in­ter­val walk­ing to be mean­ing­fully more en­joy­able than con­tin­u­ous walk­ing,” stated the re­searchers.

To test their hy­poth­e­sis, they re­cruited 16 healthy but “in­suf­fi­ciently ac­tive” adults (13 women and three men), who weren't per­form­ing the rec­om­mended 150 minutes of mod­er­ate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise a week and asked them to hop on a tread­mill and give both types of work­out a try.

The con­tin­u­ous work­out lasted 30 minutes, with the walk­ers main­tain­ing an in­ten­sity equiv­a­lent to 65-70 per cent of their max­i­mum heart rate (con­sid­ered mod­er­ate in­ten­sity). The in­ter­val work­out also re­quired 30 minutes on the tread­mill, but this time the walk­ers per­formed in­ter­vals of three minutes at 80 per cent of max­i­mum heart rate (vig­or­ous in­ten­sity), in­ter­spersed with two minutes of lower-in­ten­sity walk­ing (50 per cent of max­i­mum heart rate). The work/re­cov­ery in­ter­vals were re­peated three times.

The dif­fer­ence in re­sults ver­i­fied the re­searchers' hy­poth­e­sis: In­ter­val walk­ing burned more calo­ries than the con­tin­u­ous steady-state work­out. As for en­joy­ment, 75 per cent of the walk­ers pre­ferred the in­ter­val work­out over main­tain­ing a con­sis­tent pace for the full 30 minutes.

To get an idea of how much more ef­fi­cient in­ter­val work­outs are, the re­searchers pro­vided an ex­am­ple that might prove en­tic­ing to the av­er­age fit­ness walker who main­tains the same brisk pace from start to fin­ish.

“Rec­om­mended weekly ac­tiv­ity en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture for re­duc­ing rates of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and pre­ma­ture mor­tal­ity is 1,000 calo­ries a week,” said the team. “For par­tic­i­pants in the cur­rent study to achieve this caloric ex­pen­di­ture, they would need to per­form con­tin­u­ous walk­ing for 217 minutes a week (about seven 30-minute work­outs); how­ever, they would only have to per­form in­ter­val walk­ing for 184 minutes per week (ap­prox­i­mately six 30-minute work­outs) — an es­ti­mated 15 per cent re­duc­tion in ex­er­cise time.”

What does this mean for the av­er­age walker? It might be time to mix it up, es­pe­cially if your walk­ing work­outs have started to get a lit­tle stale. Pick­ing up the pace will get your heart racing and your mus­cles pump­ing, which is made eas­ier know­ing that ev­ery work in­ter­val is fol­lowed by a pe­riod of re­cov­ery.

If you're wor­ried you won't be able to main­tain a brisk pace for the same length of in­ter­val (three minutes), as the walk­ers in the U.K. study, don't hes­i­tate to change it up. Try 60 sec­onds of fast walk­ing fol­lowed by 60 sec­onds at a more com­fort­able pace, slowly adding time to each of the in­ter­vals un­til you can main­tain a good clip for the full three minutes. Or try a 1:2 workto-rest ra­tio — one minute of work, fol­lowed by two minutes of re­cov­ery.

There is one el­e­ment of a HIIT work­out that isn't mod­i­fi­able: to be ef­fec­tive, the work in­ter­val needs to be per­formed at a min­i­mum of 80 per cent of your max­i­mum ef­fort, which should feel stren­u­ous. So go ahead and pick up the pace, even if it's only for a few minutes at a time. Your health and fit­ness will thank you.

 ?? JOHN MA­HONEY ?? If your walk­ing work­outs have started to get a lit­tle stale, you'll find that mov­ing more quickly will get your heart racing and your mus­cles pump­ing.
JOHN MA­HONEY If your walk­ing work­outs have started to get a lit­tle stale, you'll find that mov­ing more quickly will get your heart racing and your mus­cles pump­ing.
 ?? GETTY IMAGES/ IS­TOCK­PHOTO ?? In­cor­po­rat­ing in­ter­val train­ing into your walks will help burn more calo­ries.
GETTY IMAGES/ IS­TOCK­PHOTO In­cor­po­rat­ing in­ter­val train­ing into your walks will help burn more calo­ries.
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