What is interval walking? In our expert guide, we explore how incorporating interval training into your walking routine could improve your health and fitness. We also take a closer look at what a ‘good’ walking pace is. Finally, you’ll find a 2-week interval walking plan from walking expert Caroline Sandry…

Walking is one of the most basic forms of exercise known to us. But it’s about much more than just getting from A to B. ‘We were born and built to walk. It’s movement our bodies were designed for,’ says fitness expert and personal trainer Caroline Sandry. ‘Walking is a powerful tool to getting yourself fit. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything, you can do it any time, and it’s much more accessible. It’s also less daunting than heading out to the gym, or starting a new, complicated fitness regime’. But it still has all the benefits…

Health benefits of walking

Last month, a new study revealed that walking for at least 40 minutes, several times a week, leads to almost 25 per cent less risk of heart failure in post-menopausal women. ‘We know that physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure. However, there may be a misconception that simply walking isn’t enough,’ said Dr Somwail Rasla, a cardiology specialist at Saint Vincent Hospital in Massachusetts in the US, who conducted the study while at Brown University.

‘Our analysis shows walking is almost equal to all different types of exercise that have been studied before in terms of lowering heart failure risk. Essentially, we can reach a comparable energetic expenditure through walking that we gain from other types of physical activity.’ The key words in this study are walking ‘medium to fast’. So, while we are all keen to ‘get our steps in’, and reach that magical 10,000 a day, not all steps are equal.

‘There’s a difference between just improving your number of steps and increasing your fitness,’ says Caroline. ‘Your intensity and speed are important because when you walk faster you use different muscles. If you go faster you stand up straight, you activate more of your muscles and use them properly. You breathe better and you feel invigorated.’

What is a good walking pace?

interval walking pace guide infographic

‘When you’re walking at a good pace you should feel like you can’t sustain it forever, but you feel good, like you’re really working hard,’ says Caroline. ‘That’s when you’ll really see the benefit in terms of weight loss and improvements in your muscles and cardiovascular health.’ Caroline has developed the below walking plan to help you increase the length of time you can keep up that intensity, by introducing ‘intervals’ to your walking regime. But what is interval walking?

What is interval walking?

Interval walking workouts involve periods of increased effort interspersed with periods of reduced effort. You can complete tougher bits of a workout (the intervals) which when stitched together produce greater results than trying to sustain that higher intensity for one longer effort. It’s intensity that drives calorie burn and energy expenditure, burns more fat and boosts fitness. And these benefits can last beyond the conclusion of your workout.

This is due to something known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). The more intense a workout is, the longer it will take for the previously elevated metabolic processes in your body to return to a steady-state – so you go on burning calories. And if you incorporate intervals and higher intensity sessions regularly into your workouts it’s possible to near permanently increase your metabolic rate by as much as 20 per cent!

2-week interval walking plan

Caroline’s 2-week interval walking plan should take you from casual strolling to happily doing five miles at a speedy pace in just two weeks – bringing all the benefits of improved fitness…

interval walking 2 week training plan infographic

Related: What are the mental and physical benefits of walking?