Have you heard of interval walking?
Does this sound like it might be a manageable exercise for you?
Some forms of high intensity interval training are too demanding to stick with long-term.
Most women can manage interval walking including many with pelvic floor problems!
Even better … interval walking is more effective than regular walking for important health and fitness benefits.
Read on now to learn:
- What is interval walking?
- Interval walking and your pelvic floor
- What are the proven health benefits?
- How much interval walking to get real results?
What Is Interval walking?
Interval walking is a form of exercise involving alternating intervals of fast and slow paced walking.
Studies have consistently shown the health benefits of alternating fast and slow walking.
When compared with steady state walking, interval walking has superior gains for increasing fitness, decreasing body fat and decreasing blood glucose.2
Interval Walking And Your Pelvic Floor
One of the biggest challenges and sources of anxiety with pelvic floor problems is the fear of being unable to exercise safely long term.
‘How can I stay fit?’
‘How can I manage my body weight without high impact exercises?’
Walking is pelvic floor friendly low impact fitness exercise making it ideal with pelvic floor problems.
Walking reduces jarring impact and pelvic floor loading compared with high impact exercises.
Interval walking is appropriate for many women with increased risk of pelvic floor problems (e.g. prolapse, prolapse/hysterectomy surgery, bladder/bowel problems, menopause, recent pregnancy & childbirth).
Proven Health Benefits Of Interval Walking
A number of scientific studies have investigated the benefits of interval walking compared with regular steady pace walking.
Here are some of the key findings.
1. Increased Physical Fitness
Your level of physical cardio respiratory fitness refers to how well your body transports and utilises oxygen.
Walking with moderate variations in fast/slow speed has been found to have greater improvements in physical fitness when compared with moderate steady state walking.1
There’s no need to walk full speed so that improved fitness with moderate alternating changes in pace make this a manageable form of fitness training for many women.
2. Decreased Body Fat
Interval walking is more effective than steady state walking for decreasing body fat1 and changing body composition.2
Afterburn increases after interval training which is one reason why interval walking reduces body fat. The ‘afterburn’ is the time after exercise during which more energy is burnt.
Interval walking changes body composition. When body fat decreases and lean muscle increases, overall body composition changes. Interval walking has been shown to decrease body weight, body fat and improve BMI (body mass index).2
3. Decreased Blood Sugar
Managing blood sugar level is important for preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugar levels are decreased more with interval walking than with continuous moderate paced walking.1,3
This is because alternating pace walking increases the glucose transport proteins inside the muscle cells after exercise allowing muscles to take up more glucose from the blood stream.1
4. Improved Exercise Adherence
Sticking with an exercise program can be challenging.
The intense physical challenge of some high intensity interval workouts makes them difficult to commit to long-term.
A number of studies have shown good adherence and low dropouts with interval walking training routines over 4 months duration.1,2
These findings suggest that alternating fast and slow walking is a manageable form of interval training to adhere to.
How Much Interval Walking To Get Real Results
Seek your doctor’s approval before starting exercise or changing your exercise routine.
Here’s the walking routine used effectively in the studies referred to in this article.
Even if you can’t manage the amount of walking exercise below, you may still apply the basic alternating fast and slow principles to your existing walking routine.
Duration: 60 minutes
Frequency: 5 sessions per week
Intensity: Alternating cycles of 3 minutes fast with 3 minutes slow walking intervals
How fast? How slow?
In the interval walking studies to date, participants exercised at set levels of intensity above and below their individualised peak energy expenditure (VO2 Max).
This is a little tricky to understand however put simply, the participants were asked to exercise at alternating intervals of ≥ 70% of their peak energy expenditure and ≤ 40% peak energy expenditure.
A simple way to estimate your walking speed is to imagine how hard you’re walking on a 15 point scale ranging from 6 (minimum effort) to 20 (exhaustion).4
Walking at 70% effort feels ‘somewhat hard’ and 40% feels like ‘very light effort’.
Key Points For Interval Walking Versus Steady Walking
Alternating fast and slow paced walking is a pelvic floor friendly low impact exercise that can be readily adhered to by many women.
The health benefits of interval walking over steady continuous walking include:
- Increased physical fitness
- Decreased body fat (improved body composition)
- Decreased blood glucose
Effective walking interval programs to date have involved 60 minutes of alternating 3 minutes fast with 3 minutes slow walking intervals, 5 days/week using alternating ‘very light’ with ‘somewhat hard’ walking pace.
1. Karstoft K, Winding K, Knudsen S, Nielsen J, Thomsen C, Pedersen B, Solomon T. The Effects of Free-Living Interval-Walking Training on Glycemic Control, Body Composition, and Physical Fitness in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Diabetes Care. 2013 Feb; 36(2): 228–236.
2. Morikawa M , Okazaki K , Masuki S, Kamijo Y, Yamazaki T, Gen-no H, Nose H. Physical fitness and indices of lifestyle-related diseases before and after interval walking training in middle-aged and older males and females. Br J Sports Med 2011;45:216-224.
3. Nemoto K, Gen-no H, Masuki S, Okazaki K, Nose H. Effects of high-intensity interval walking training on physical fitness and blood pressure in middle-aged and older people. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007 Jul;82(7):803-11.