You can add a five-minute stretch of sustained speed walking somewhere around the middle of your walk.
Phil Carpenter / Montreal Gazette
Workouts are getting shorter, and there’s no reason walking workouts can’t be part of the trend, even if weight loss is the goal.The idea that walkers can join the growing community of exercisers who reap benefits from shorter workouts might seem contrary to the belief that walkers need to go long if they want to burn enough calories for weight loss. But a study published in the Obesity Journal reported walkers who split their long walk in two lost more weight than those who stuck with one long walking workout a day.The study, which aimed to evaluate the effects of different exercise frequencies while maintaining the same total time spent being active, featured 65 overweight, sedentary women who were divided into two groups; one who walked once a day for 50 minutes/six days a week and one who took two, 25-minute walks a day/six days a week. Each woman was prescribed a personalized diet plan designed to promote weight loss along with weekly check-ins with professionals. And to add a dose of motivation, each study subject was encouraged to recruit a friend to walk alongside them.All of the women participating in the study had their measurements (weight and waist circumference) logged at the start of the 24-week intervention. Daily step counts were recorded by a pedometer that was worn at all times except while bathing or sleeping.At the end of the 24-week trial both walking groups lost weight and increased their daily step count, which isn’t surprising. The combination of diet and exercise has proved to be an effective weight loss strategy. But what’s worth noting is the walkers who split their workout into two 25-minute bouts lost an additional 1.7 kg and had a higher step count than the once-a-day walkers.“There was no significant differences in the estimated energy intake between the groups,” said the study’s authors. “Therefore, the significant difference in weight loss after 24 weeks between both groups may be due to a difference in physical activity energy expenditure between the two groups.”The extra pounds lost by the twice-a-day walkers seems like a big win, but so, too, is the greater gain in daily step count, which suggests shorter, more frequent workouts can result in more exercise. The two-a-day walkers added an extra 2,965 steps to their daily step count, compared with an additional 2,196 steps by the once-a-day walkers.Put into the context of a busy schedule, the results of this study allow the time-challenged more flexibility in achieving their goals. A 25-minute walk at lunch and another one after dinner is doable. Whereas, a 50-minute walk can be more challenging over the lunch hour or within that short window of time between when the dinner mess is cleaned up and end-of-day fatigue kicks in.That said, missing from the data collected in this study is the speed (intensity) of the walking workouts, which has an effect on calorie burn. A brisk walk burns more calories than a stroll. And walking at a pace nearing your maximum effort will burn more calories than a brisk walk. So the faster you walk, the more calories you burn, and since the study counted steps, not calories, it’s hard to know how intensity factored into the results.Another caution for those who plan on trying to replicate the results is that the subjects were overweight, sedentary women between 18-40 years of age, which means the results may vary in other populations like men, people of lesser weight, older and more fit individuals.If you do plan on trying to break up your walks into two shorter workouts, you might want to consider experimenting with picking up the pace. The benefit of a shorter walk is you don’t need as much endurance, which means you can bump up intensity with less worry of running out of gas. Try adding short 30-60 second bouts of speed walking, aim for 130 steps a minute, somewhere around 10 minutes into your walk. Intersperse your speedy intervals with 30-60 seconds of recovery, taking down the pace to a more comfortable speed before picking it up again. Repeat the fast/slow intervals four times, after which you’ll be on the home stretch for the finish line.Or, add a five-minute stretch of sustained speed walking somewhere around the middle of your walk, and then take it down a notch or two on the return trip. Remember, to shorten, not lengthen, your stride as you pick up speed, increasing your turn over versus the distance covered with each step. And use one of the many apps available for your phone to count your steps, monitor your pace and calculate time and distance travelled. Keeping a record of your efforts as well as getting immediate feedback on your workout keeps you honest and sets the bar for future efforts.Armed with a plan, and more sunlight at both ends of the day, go ahead and experiment with breaking your walks into two speedier workouts and see what results you can achieve.Related