How to Use Interval Walking for Weight Loss

Man walking through trail

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

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Walking to lose weight is effective, convenient, and great for your physical and mental health. But if you want to take things up a notch and inject some variation into your walking routine, you can try interval walking for weight loss. An interval walking program can boost the intensity and calorie burn without adding too much stress or strain to your body.

Below is more about what interval walking is, how to set up a plan that works for you, and an advanced plan to help you progress.

What Is Interval Walking?

An interval walking program for weight loss is almost the same as every other walking program to lose weight but it takes advantage of short bursts of faster walking to help you burn more fat. Each interval is timed so that it is not too long and you won't get exhausted.

Following each fast walking burst is a short recovery so that you can catch your breath and recover. Interval walking is one of the best ways to improve your level of fitness, burn more calories, and even transition to a jogging or running program.

How to Set Up Interval Walking

Before you start any exercise program, it is essential to check with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough for a vigorous workout. Then you should ensure that you are adequately equipped with good walking shoes and an interval timer. Many fitness trackers and activity monitors have a watch feature that you can use to time your intervals.

  1. Warm-up: Begin every workout with a 5-minute warm-up. During the warm-up, start with an easy walking pace and gradually work your way up to a moderate walking pace. If you monitor your steps per minute, a moderate pace might be roughly 100 steps per minute. But you can also use perceived exertion as your guide. When walking at a moderate pace, you should be breathing deeply but comfortably.
  2. Speed Interval: After the warm-up, begin your first interval. If you are new to this exercise style, start with a short 30-second interval. During this burst, bend your arms and pump them forward and back. Take shorter, quicker steps, roll from your heel to your toes, and push off strong. Your breathing will get deeper as well.
  3. Moderate Pace Interval: After 30 seconds, return to your moderate walking pace for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. You just completed your first interval set!
  4. Repeat: Repeat the interval set (30 seconds of a quick burst followed by two minutes and 30 seconds of a moderate pace) four more times for five interval sets (15 minutes).
  5. Cooldown: Finish the workout with a 5-minute cooldown.

How to Increase Walking Intensity

As your fitness level improves, you can make your interval walking program more advanced. But remember that since your interval walking workouts are challenging, you don't want to do them daily.

Instead, alternate interval walks with moderate-intensity, steady-paced walks during the week. Two or three interval walks per week are recommended. This way, you give yourself some easier days in between to avoid injury or burnout.

  • Shorten the rest period. After each 30-second burst, give yourself less time to recover. Just make sure you maintain a moderate pace during the recovery phase.
  • Lengthen the interval burst. Make each interval burst last longer. Try a 40-second interval, a 50-second interval, or a 60-second interval to burn more fat while walking.
  • Add hills. You can do interval walking on a hill to make it harder. Use a single, short hill, walk up during the burst, and walk down for recovery, or do your entire walking workout on an incline.
  • Add speed. Some runners learn how to run by using a simple interval walking program. Why not give it a try? During your quick burst, jog slowly. Then slow down to a brisk walk during the recovery. Gradually increase the time you spend jogging and decrease the time you spend walking. Soon enough, you'll be jogging during your entire workout!

You'll probably find that your interval walking program flies by more quickly than steady pace walking. Counting each burst and recovery helps take your mind off the effort of your workout.

But remember that consistency matters most when you want to lose weight. So no matter which walking program you use to lose weight, stick to it to get real results.

A Word From Verywell

Walking is an excellent tool in your weight loss journey. It is a low-impact way to burn calories, but also helps reduce stress and is accessible for most people, no matter their fitness level. Incorporating walking along with a nutritious energy balanced diet is a wise decision for your health. Speak to a healthcare provider if you are concerned about weight loss and need help coming up with a plan.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Edwards MK, Loprinzi PD. Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults. Health Promot Perspect. 2018;8(3):171-178. Published 2018 Jul 7. doi:10.15171/hpp.2018.23

  2. Masuki S, Morikawa M, Nose H. Interval Walking Training Can Increase Physical Fitness in Middle-Aged and Older People. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2017;45(3):154-162. doi:10.1249/JES.0000000000000113

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.