Sure, walking for weight loss works — but will tight waistbands and fizzling energy spoil your fun? Not if top walking experts have anything to say about it. Their breakthrough research has uncovered an amazingly effective trick that makes even the quickest stroll burn a staggering 900 percent more fat.
As if that weren’t amazing enough, new evidence from Australian scientists proves that this easy technique — which simply involves walking at a relaxing pace for 45 seconds and then adding a 15-second burst of speed — will actually shrink your appetite. “If you can walk, you can do this and expect incredible results,” promises North Carolina-based walking guru Danny Dreyer, co-author of Chi Walking. “In my experience, women love this approach because of how great it makes them feel. They’re so invigorated and happy — and losing a good bit of weight on top of that.”
Woman’s World readers who tested “speed bursts” couldn’t agree more. They got all the benefits Dreyer described after adding a mere seven minutes of fast stepping to an otherwise easy walk. “I even ate chocolate, and I’m still down seven pounds in a week!” raves candy-loving Nevada mom Leesa Stevens, 46. Adds Las Vegas receptionist Marni Torre, 44, also down a pound a day: “I love speed bursts. They make the time just fly by. And they made it so I could enjoy cake and keep right on losing.”
Walking for weight loss: The magic of speed bursts
Here, top experts explain how 15-second bursts of speed work such wonders.
You’ll torch stored fat. “What research tells us is that after a burst of speed, it takes the body a while to downshift,” explains Dreyer. “So even though you slow down for, say, 45 seconds, you’ll keep burning fat and calories as if you were walking at full speed almost the whole time.” Bonus: Your body is so revved up by speed bursts, studies show you get a greater “after-burn” effect. That means once you’ve stopped exercising, fat burn stays elevated for up to three hours afterward — about triple the after burn you’d get from a regular brisk walk. Put it all together, and Canadian researchers say walking with speed bursts burns a whopping 900 percent more fat than walking at a steady pace.
You’ll block new fat. A British study found that just a few speed bursts a day for four weeks will lower levels of fat-storage hormones by 24 percent. Why? Turns out, speed bursts fire up muscles so much, they incinerate lots more blood sugar — and this means the body makes less insulin, a hormone that stores unused blood sugar as fat. The bottom line: Using speed bursts to lower insulin production will make your body more resistant to storing new fat.
You’ll automatically want to eat less food. Some research has suggested that intense exercise makes us hungry. But not so with speed bursts, says University of Western Australia’s Aaron Sim. Sim’s new study found that when folks use speed bursts, “their levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin fall. Meanwhile, levels of appetite-killing blood compounds called lactates rise.” These changes are dramatic enough, he says, to cut calorie intake by 23 percent.
Getting started: It couldn’t be easier
The best way to get started? Think about what works best for you and your schedule, suggests Jessie X. Fan, Ph.D., a University of Utah “speed burst” proponent. “There are all of these psychological reasons that can keep people from doing longer bouts of exercise — like not having enough time or worrying they’ll get too tired. Our findings show that — as long as you’re adding little bursts of intensity here and there — short bouts of exercise can be very effective for weight control. Just sneak in 20-30 quick speed bursts a day, aiming to stay active for at least 10 minutes at a time. Most readers who tested the approach for us opted to do two 15-minute walks (while alternating between 45 easy seconds and 15 seconds of speed) on most days.
Want more flexibility? You got it. “Speed bursts are equally effective with just about any activity,” says Dreyer. You can use them while scrubbing the tub or dancing in your bedroom. Simply go at a relaxing pace for 45 seconds, then add a 15-second blast of intensity. “Do what feels vigorous to you, and you’re doing it perfectly,” adds Dreyer, who shares tips and inspiration at ChiWalking.com. “This technique adapts easily to every fitness level.” And it helps your body adapt easily to your skinny jeans.
Tip! To make timing speed bursts easy, download a free phone app — like Deltaworks Interval Timer (iTunes.com) or Runloop's Seconds Pro Interval Timer (Play.Google.com) — to alert you when it’s time to switch your pace.
No-diet walk-it-off menu
Readers who helped us test how well walking “speed bursts” work didn't diet. Instead, they aimed to eat healthy food most of the time — but still made room for favorite treats. Here’s a sample of what their menus looked like as they walked off serious weight.
Breakfast (choose one daily)
OPTION 1: 4 egg whites scrambled with 1/2 cup broccoli and hot sauce
OPTION 2: 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries
Lunch (choose one daily)
OPTION 1: 1/2 cup white beans, 1/4 cup each of walnuts and dried cranberries, sprinkle blue cheese over large mixed green salad with vinaigrette
OPTION 2: 1/2 cup hummus, 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, chopped bell pepper and olives in 1 toasted whole-grain pita with 1 large side salad, vinaigrette
Dinner (choose one daily)
OPTION 1: 6 oz. grilled chicken breast, herbs and olive oil, along with 2 cups of steamed asparagus or broccoli, lemon juice and 1/2 cup brown rice with 1 tsp. slivered almonds
OPTION 2: 6 oz. broiled salmon with herbs and lemon, along with 2 cups sautéed baby spinach, 1 tsp. olive oil and 1/2 baked sweet potato, drizzle olive oil
Snack (choose one daily)
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.