Despite what you may have heard from any hardcore distance runners or weightlifters you happen to know, walking—when paired with a healthy diet—is an effective way to lose weight. According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry, researchers who studied the effects of walking on obese women found that it was especially effective at reducing belly fat, while also improving the body’s insulin response. Another study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that sedentary men and women between the ages of 40 and 65 managed to lose weight when they walked for 12 miles every week without meaningfully changing their diets.
If walking is your exercise method of choice, know that there’s one thing you can be doing after you lace up your shoes that not only makes your walks more interesting but also ensures that you’re maximizing your weight loss: You can perform walking intervals—or varying the pace of your walks by working in shorter bursts of more intense walking.
“By varying the speed of your walk, especially adding in some faster pace interval work, you will raise your heart rate and increase your caloric expenditure, helping you lose more weight over time,” says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, an exercise physiologist and author of The Micro-Workout Plan: Get the Body You Want without the Gym in 15 Minutes or Less a Day. “Remember that your body is an intelligent machine that adapts to your workouts. By adding variation into your walks, you will keep your body challenged and ensure you avoid the dreaded weight-loss plateau.”
Studies have shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—when not performed to the extreme, of course—is one of the most effective exercises that you can do to lose weight. One enormous meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine found that HIIT “significantly reduced total, abdominal, and visceral fat mass, with no differences between the sexes.” The researchers concluded: “HIIT is a time-efficient strategy to decrease fat-mass deposits, including those of abdominal and visceral fat mass.”
Though sprinting fast, knocking out Burpees, and jumping rope are way more hardcore than walking, the same exercise principles apply to walking intervals: By varying the intensity of your exercise and pushing your heart rate more, you’ll reap greater rewards.
“It’s also been pointed out to me that intervals more resemble natural play,” Martin Gibala, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario—and one of the world’s top experts on interval training—once explained to me. “So, if you look at children in a playground, they don’t sort of jog at a moderate pace for a continuous period of time. They run and jump and they take breaks and they sprint, and then stop and take a break. So, in some ways I think intervals tend to resemble more natural activities, either from an evolutionary perspective or from a child behavior perspective.”
If you want your walk to be more interesting and productive, apply intervals to your next outing. Consider trying your hand at this great 30-minute interval walking workout below, courtesy of Tom Holland. It’s done in only a half-hour, but your body’s fat-burning apparatus will be working long after you’ve stopped. Whatever you do, make sure you’re not making any of these Major Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make While Walking, According to Experts.
Walk at an easy pace for 10 minutes to get your body loose and comfortable.
Do power intervals
For 30 seconds, do a hard power walk—walking for as fast as you can. Immediately afterward, slow back down to an easy walk for recovery. Repeat this cycle 9 more times.
Walk at an easy pace for 10 minutes.
If you’re looking for even more fat burn
Follow the same routine as above, but perform your power intervals on a hill. Walk 30 seconds powerfully up the hill, and then 30 seconds back down at an easy pace. And if you’re eager for more Eat This, Not That!-approved workouts to try, don’t miss these great ones right here:
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