How you walk is important if you want to increase the health benefits of walking as exercise, according to some recent research from doctors in Copenhagen. The researchers were surprised at the results of making some simple changes to a walking plan for patients with type 2 diabetes.
Two groups of patients were studied. Both groups walked for an hour, 5 times a week for 4 months. The control group walked at a continuous pace at about 55% of their maximum pace. The other group walked for the same length of time but alternated 3 minute intervals of fast walking (more than 70% effort) with slow (40% effort).
The overall intensity of the walking was the same in both groups but the results were very different;
Average glucose levels dropped in the interval group, while rising slightly in the continuous-exercise group
- increased insulin sensitivity (49.8% increase in the insulin-sensitivity index,P < .001)
- and increased peripheral glucose disposal (by 14.5%,P <.05), both of which were seen only in the intermittent-exercise group
- improved insulin signalling in skeletal muscle was also found only in the intermittent exercise group
- Improved body composition also occurred only in the interval group — average weight loss was 4.2 kg (9 lb)
The results were published online August 4, 2014 in Diabetologia by Kristian Karstoft, MD, of the Center of Inflammation and Metabolism, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues.
What's the 'take home message?
Interval training (High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT) has yet again been shown to be more effective than steady state exercise. If you want to increase the health rewards of spending time exercising then alternating bouts of high intensity exercise with low intensity periods is going to do a lot more for your health and wellness.
This type of approach can be applied to almost any form of exercise - walking, running, swimming, cycling, even weight and resistance training.