Power Walking

Do This When You Walk to Burn More Fat

In All Health Watch, Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article, Fitness and Exercise, General Health, Longevity, Weight Loss

If you walk for exercise, a Harvard professor has some simple advice to dramatically increase the health benefits…

Try “interval walking.”

Compared to regular walking, 30 minutes of interval walking four days a week has been found to greatly improve aerobic fitness, lower blood pressure, reduce weight, increase leg strength, and improve overall health.1

Dr. Aaron Baggish is associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He says interval walking “is a great way to get the most exercise bang for your buck.”2

“It improves endurance, reduces blood pressure, and helps with weight loss,” he explains.

Japanese Exercise Secret

Japanese researchers have been studying the benefits for seniors of interval walking for over a decade.

In one ongoing study, researchers from the Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine gathered 696 men and women between the ages of 58 and 72. They split them into two groups.

They had one group walk normally at 40% of full exertion for three minutes. Then they had them speed up to a 70% exertion rate for three minutes. The walkers repeated these intervals five times for 30 minutes total.

The other group walked at a leisurely 40% exertion rate for the entire 30 minutes. Both groups did the walks four days a week.

After five months, the researchers compared the groups’ fitness and health.

Participants who walked casually showed very little improvement. But the interval-walking group showed a 12% increase in aerobic fitness.  Their blood pressure went down 13%. They had greater leg strength.

The interval walkers also decreased their overall “lifestyle-related disease score.” This is a marker related to smoking, drinking, and weight. They had reduced their unhealthy habits and lost fat.3

The researchers continued to follow the participants for a decade longer. They found that the interval walkers—even those who decreased the regimen to three days a week—maintained or increased their health gains.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

How to Interval Walk

Your first question might be, “How fast do I walk?”

Dr. Baggish says you should “Walk as fast as you can, at a pace you can do briefly, but can’t do forever.” You should not run.

He adds that you don’t have to worry about reaching a particular heart rate.

He also recommends that you:

  • Look for smooth terrain. Hills are OK, but an uneven walking surface can lead to stumbles and falls. Parks and shopping malls are good interval walking sites. A school track is good, too, if you can access one.
  • Avoid concrete. It’s hard on your joints. A grass or dirt surface is best as long as the terrain is even, says Dr. Baggish.
  • Use a treadmill. If you don’t have a good outdoor walking area, a treadmill works. Simply increase the speed when needed.

If you walk for fitness, why not maximize the benefits? Supercharge your routine with interval walking.

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1 https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/walk-hard-walk-easy-repeat/?ref=health&_r=0
2 http://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/put-some-pep-in-your-step?utm_source=delivra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GB20170607-Walking&utm_id=524627&dlv-ga-memberid=28035839&mid=28035839&ml=524627
3 http://jap.physiology.org/content/118/5/595