The biggest advance in exercise training the last few years is High Intensity Interval Training (HITT). This form of aerobic training—short intense periods of exercise interspersed with rest periods— can be extremely efficient. However, many people find the intense periods of exercise too exhausting and difficult, so they get discouraged and quit HIIT.
But the good news— published by Japanese researchers in the 24 December 2014 Journal of Applied Physiology—is that there is an easier way to perform HIIT, using only fast walking interspersed with slow walking.
These researchers found that using their program, a high percentage (70%) of people who start the fast-slow walking routine were still performing it two years after the end of the research study. They concluded that this walking program was the easiest and the most practical for most middle aged and older people to receive the benefits of HIIT.
The Japanese routine is simple: 3 minutes of fast walking, followed by 3 minutes of gentle paced walking. The fast-slow routine is then repeated 4 times, giving a total of 30 minutes of walking time. They recommend that this 30-minute walking routine be done 3 or 4 times per week.
The pace for the “fast” 3-minute interval is at a level of 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the fastest walking you can possibly do), and the slow 3 minutes is at a level 4 on the same scale of exertion.
If you do not have 30-minute periods to devote to walking, an alternative is to break it up into 3 separate sessions of 10 minutes each, performed morning, afternoon, and evening. And if even that is not practical, Dr. Shizue Masuki, lead author of the Japanese study, suggests you “do it on the weekend”. Even that, performing the routine two days a week, can “have a profound effect on physiological regulation”.
So if you do not consider yourself a strong exerciser, you don’t have to be left out of the HIIT revolution. By just doing a fast-slow waking routine 2 to 4 times a week (or more if you want), you will gain greater cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic benefits than simply walking at a steady pace. Still, this fast-slow routine is more demanding on your body than simple walking, so check with a health professional first if you have any questions if this is appropriate for you.
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