Meeting our exercise goals and optimizing time spent exercising. Does Interval walking or continuous walking benefit us more?
Last updated: May 2021
Exercise is important for our health; however, many of us fall short of what is recommended. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), only 49.6% of adults over the age of 18 years are meeting the physical activity recommendations for aerobic exercise. For those of us who have not exercised in the past, walking is a great way to get started. When we do find the time to exercise, we should make the most of that time.
The American Diabetes Association recommends adults with diabetes get 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity. Exercise should be performed at least three times per week, and with no more than two days between workouts.
Aerobic exercise is a continuous movement that uses large muscle groups and increases the need for oxygen. Examples of aerobic exercises are walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. These exercises strengthen the cardiovascular system. Metabolic improvements, such as weight loss and increased calorie expenditure, occur at moderate to vigorous intensities.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercise intensity that is 55% to 90% of the maximum heart rate. Estimating your maximum heart rate can be done using the following calculation:
*Estimated Heart Rate Maximum = 208 bpm** – (0.7 x age)
Example: 55 year old:
208 bpm – (0.7 x 55)= 169 bpm
55% of 169 bpm: (169 x 0.55) = 93 bpm
90% of 169 bpm: (160 x 0.90) = 152 bpm
- This calculation should be used with caution. Make sure to receive medical clearance from your physician before starting an exercise program. Wearing a heart rate monitor may be helpful.
- **bpm = beats per minute
Exercise has numerous benefits for our overall health and wellbeing.
- Improved strength and work capacity
- Reduced risk factors for heart disease
- Improved blood pressure
- Reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol
- Help with achieving and maintaining desirable body weight
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced A1c level (2-3 month blood sugar average). Blood sugar levels are often lower for up to 2-72 hours after exercise of mild to moderate intensity.
- Improved self esteem and body image
With all the benefits of exercise, one might think there should never be anything holding us back! So what are some of the common barriers for not getting the exercise we need?
- Not enough time
- Feeling self conscious
- Concerns about low blood sugars (people taking insulin or insulin secreting oral medications are at greatest risk of having a low blood sugar)
- Thinking you are not athletic
- Not feeling motivated
- Feeling tired after work
- Finding exercise to be boring
Walking is a great way to meet the physical activity recommendations whether you are just getting started or have been exercising for years. New research has been done to compare interval walking versus continuous walking. Interval walking switches between fast walking and slow walking every 3 minutes for the duration of the walk. Continuous walking is done at the same pace using a moderate intensity for the entirety of the walk. Lab results completed on study participants demonstrated improved glucose disposal and increased insulin sensitivity in those participants that had done interval walking over a 60-minute period. More research is needed to determine if health outcomes are improved in the long term.
Time seems to be one of the biggest barriers. So what are some creative ways to fit in walking?
- Wear a pedometer to track your steps
- Park further distance from store entrance
- Walk around the mall
- Walk while on the phone
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walk to lunch
- Walk during TV commercials
- Get off the bus or train 1-2 exits early
Bottom line: Get moving!!
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