How High-Intensity Interval Training Can Start with Walking

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How High-Intensity Interval Training Can Start with Walking

You’ve probably heard about the amazing benefits of high-intensity interval training — notably: faster fat burning and increased calorie burn both during your workout and for hours after. But the simple fact is that some of the exercises typically used in HIIT (think: burpees, squat thrusts, etc.) can be tough to perform correctly at high speeds, especially if you’re new to exercise, returning after a long hiatus or need to stay low impact for your joints.

The good news is that a recent study found that the best way to get started with HIIT is by walking. A focused power walk is one of the simplest and most practical ways to incorporate this type of interval work into your regular exercise program.

To help you get started, here’s an outline for a program you can try on your next walk. This works well both outdoors or on the treadmill.

THE 30-MINUTE HIIT WALK

As you build your fitness level, try shortening the length of your steady pace intervals and working at a higher intensity for longer periods of time. (Feel free to adjust the length of your intervals as needed.) If, for example, you aren’t able to fully catch your breath during your recovery period, you may need to take more time in between your work intervals as you boost your stamina.

Warmup (3 minutes): Walk at an easy, comfortable pace

Interval set (5 reps):

  • Steady state (3 minutes): Walk briskly, enough that your breathing is elevated, but you can still talk easily.
  • High-intensity (1 minute): Walk as quickly as you possibly can. At this pace your breathing should be very labored; talking is difficult.
  • Recovery (1 minute): Walk at a comfortable pace, and focus on catching your breath.

Cooldown (2 minutes): Continue to walk at an easy, comfortable pace. (Maybe add a few stretches.)


READ MORE > HIIT FOR BEGINNERS WEEK 1: WALKING INTERVALS


Looking for additional options for low-impact HIIT? Don’t miss our “30-Minute Low Impact HIIT” session included in our “Walk On: 21 Day Weight Loss Plan” program! It’s the perfect place to get started with HIIT, and the walking-based workout includes options to help you advance your intensity level once you get fitter.


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  • SeanTen

    Great….. another article telling people they are doing something they are not! Walking is not HIIT! Not even close! If you want to do HIIT training then do that. If you want to walk fast then do that. The walking protocol you give has nothing to do with HIIT! Please dont call a walk in the park HIIT!
    So your aware…..HIIT is not easy! Thats the point. Its intense.

    • Patricia Rhodes

      For someone that has a very low fitness level walking can be HIIT …Superman

      • Lars Funck

        I agree with SeanTen. HIIT should be a lot more intense than “just” elevated heart rate and laboured breathing. Otherwise any type of cardio could be called HIIT.

        Dont get me wrong, the ideas in the article can be good, and for many walking is the perfect place to start. Its just the term HIIT we object to.

    • Patricia Rhodes

      HIIT can be applied to any type of exercise I am a 66 yr. old while on my walk each morning I alternate between a fast walk & a jog to a run it’s all about getting your heart rate up & for someone not young or super fit it is just as intense or more so.

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    • Rick Pepper

      HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time.
      I see nothing in the definition that disqualifies walking. Each individual will determine their “All Out”, not you. Stop trying to be a fitness snob.

    • I don’t often say bluntly you are wrong. But you are wrong!

      HIIT is about intensity not the specific protocol. It’s about maxing out your capacity. It you are young and fit it means sprints that get your heart rate up to its max. If you are overweight and unfit, it could be walking rapidly for a minute or two and then slowing to a more comfortable pace and repeating and getting your heart rate up to its max. What matters is your heart rate not how you get there.

      And as you get fitter, your intensity increases until you are sprinting not walking. But HIIT is about heart rate.

  • TBC

    It’s “How HIIT can start with walking,” folks! People who are getting into shape, and who are adapting to what will become the HIIT that many of us know and love, may not be able to jump right in to our levels of HIIT. It could be their physical conditioning and/or their age. For them, this is the START. And for many, it IS HIIT.

    • -Cool-Daddy-

      You are absolutely correct. When I started, I varied my treadmill walks between speed walking on the highest incline to an easy walk on no incline. Being out of shape and nearly 100 lbs overweight- what I was doing was very intense for me.

      Once I couldn’t get my heart rate up past 85% of max. I then added jogging. When jogging was not enough I added running.

      I’m now sprint HIIT at 12-15 mph on the treadmill. It’s just as intense now as the beginning… less than 2 years ago (60 lbs ago).

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  • Jami Carpenter

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  • Lisa Silver

    Is there an app for HIIT Walking? I have C25K but an not ready to jog yet.

  • K. Miles

    Once again, the fitness people are not talking to me. I look at all of the pictures and ask, who is this for? Who are they (MyFitnessPal) trying to reach. Obviously, not me because no one looks like me. Think about it and ask yourself, are you really trying to broaden your market outreach.