High-Intensity Interval Training

High-Intensity Interval Training Image

If you haven't already heard about high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you will soon. HIIT was ranked by the American College of Sports Medicine as the top fitness trend for 2014, and for good reason: It's an easy way to get faster results in less time. Interval training involves alternating short bursts of high intensity activity, such as fast walking or jogging, with longer or equal length recovery intervals of low to moderate intensity activity.

Studies show that HIIT improves cardiovascular fitness faster, burns more calories and increases fat-burning ability, compared to exercising at the same moderate intensity level for your entire workout. When people with diabetes tried interval walking for four months, they lost six times more weight—9.5 versus 1.5 pounds—and shed more belly fat than people with diabetes who didn't vary their walking speed, according to a Danish study. The interval exercisers also had better blood sugar levels and increased their cardio fitness by 16 percent while steady-paced walkers showed no improvement.

No Excuses

Intervals are also a good solution to the common "I don't have time to exercise" excuse. As you walk faster, you burn more calories so you can get an effective fat-burning workout in less time.

In a study on bicycling interval training, interval exercisers were able to burn 200 calories in just 20 minutes while it took one-speed cyclists 40 minutes to burn the same number of calories.

A Four-Week Plan

Here's how to add intervals to your walking routine over four weeks: Plan to do interval walks on three nonconsecutive days per week. (You can do steady paced, moderate-intensity walking on alternate days, if you desire.)

Begin each walk at an easy pace for three minutes, then increase to a moderate pace for two minutes to warm up. During the speed intervals, push yourself to walk as fast as possible. You should be breathing harder, but still able to speak in short sentences. For the recovery phase, slow down to a moderate pace in which you can speak comfortably in full sentences. Finish with three to five minutes of easy walking to cool down.

If you'd like to walk longer, you can increase the number of times that you do the intervals, or simply walk at a steady pace until you're ready to cool down. A sports watch or stopwatch will help you time intervals accurately.

  • Week 1—Do a 1-minute speed interval followed by a 4-minute recovery interval. Repeat 4 times for a total of 20 minutes.
  • Week 2—Do a 1-minute speed interval followed by a 3-minute recovery interval. Repeat 5 times for a total of 20 minutes.
  • Week 3—Do a 1-minute speed interval followed by a 2-minute recovery interval. Repeat 7 times for a total of 21 minutes.
  • Week 4—Do a 1-minute speed interval followed by a 1-minute recovery interval. Repeat 10 times for a total of 20 minutes.

3 Ways to Go Faster

  1. Stand Tall Imagine that a string is attached to the top of your head and gently pulling you up so your ears are away from your shoulders and your ribs are lifted up from your hips. You'll feel lighter on your feet, and breathing will be easier.
  2. Bend Your Arms Imagine that your arms are in a cast so they remain bent. They'll swing faster, and the faster they go, the faster your legs will move.
  3. Avoid Big Steps Your front foot should land close to your body for a smoother, speedier stride. to get an idea of how big a step you should take, raise one leg as if you are marching so your thigh is parallel to the floor with your heel under your knee. now lower your heel straight down to the floor. That's about where your heel should be landing when you walk.

From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Spring 2014; our fitness expert is Michele Stanten, a walking coach and author of three books on exercise

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 03 Feb 2014

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015