Got 10 minutes? Try interval walking

Fitness expert Dean Hodgkin explains the easy mix-and-match walking workout you can do anywhere.
Published October 11, 2016


For many of us, a walk in the fresh air is the perfect way to carve out some me- time and get our bodies moving. It’s a low-impact exercise, so most people will feel a lot more comfortable walking than running. To maximise the fitness (and weight- loss) benefits of any walking you do, Dean has identified three intensity levels for walking – and you can use these to create an easy but effective workout.

Simply pick a route and mix up the three levels. For example, start with a three-to-five-minute level one warm-up, build up to level two and intersperse it with short bursts of level three, then take two to three minutes to cool back down at level one. Use landmarks such as the next lamppost as your distance marker for a burst of level three.

As long as you keep throwing in level three ‘sprints’ you’ll be doing what sports scientists call interval training, thought to be as effective as steady exercise done over a longer period. Even a regular 10-minute session can make a difference – just do as much as you can in the time you have available. Make sure you listen to your body though, and take a rest day if you need to. 

Learn your levels

Level one (intensity level 4–5 out of 10)

  • Walk at a comfortable pace and focus on your posture by lifting up through the centre of your body, relaxing your shoulders and swinging your arms in rhythm with your stride.
  • Your arm swing should be from the shoulder, rather than the elbow, and your arms should swing out in front of you rather than across the centre line of the body.
  • The length of each stride should be comfortable and on planting your heel, the toes should be raised towards the shins. The foot then rolls from heel to toe before pushing off.

Level two (intensity level 6–7 out of 10)

  • Walk briskly, bending your elbows to 90 degrees and swinging them in time with your stride.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body and concentrate on their forward and backward movement. Your legs should never be straight – the aim is to produce a smooth motion and a locked knee can cause a bouncing action.
  • As speed increases so will your hip rotation, but allow this to occur naturally rather than wiggling your hips artificially.
  • Increase your forward lean, making sure that you lean from your ankles, rather than the waist, as this could lead to back ache.

Level three (intensity level 8 out of 10)

  • This level is all about speed, so walk as fast as you can! It’ll be hard to maintain, so do it in bursts.
  • Concentrate on increasing stride frequency, not stride length, and pumping your arms by lifting your elbows high behind you.
  • To help increase speed, narrow your stride width a little and add a strong push off with your big toe with each step, moving the foot in a continuous heel-to-toe motion.
  • Lean forwards from your ankles to give yourself a feeling of being able to push against the ground harder. Leaning will also avoid over-striding, which can slow you down.