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Turn your walk into a workout with this 31-day interval-training plan

Who's ready to walk? This one month plan will help you shed unwanted pounds while providing a much-needed mental break.
Woman walking on snowy street
Lorenzo Capunata / Getty Images

For many, walking outdoors has been a mental health saver over the course of the pandemic. Out of pure necessity to get out of the same environment, walks are one activity that I recommend to all of my private weight-loss clients. One of my clients views her daily walk as her “zen” time while another schedules walking meetings to get movement in while she works.

I’ve also been going on daily walks to maintain my sanity! Sometimes I go on a leisurely stroll, but other days I turn it into an interval workout to get my heart rate up and improve my cardiovascular health. The great thing about walking is that you don’t need any equipment; just grab a pair of gym shoes and get out the door! You can also walk everyday because as a low-impact form of cardio, it doesn’t put too much stress on your muscles and joints so there’s not much need for recovery.

The health benefits of walking outdoors

Walking is great for reducing stress, improving circulation and mobility and boosting energy levels. Research also shows that interval training is best for fat loss, so if weight loss is your focus, this workout plan will help you work toward that goal, too.

Taking your walking outdoors only magnifies the benefits. Spending time outside in nature has been shown to help with mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Observing natural elements like trees, grass and flowers and breathing in some fresh air are all mood-boosters that are easily accessible by simply stepping outdoors. (Even if you live in a city or more urban area, exposure to natural elements like trees and birds has shown positive effects on mental health!). If you're ready to reap the mental and physical benefits of walking, we've got a plan for you to follow this month.

Download a printable calendar here.

Calendar with stickers on it
TODAY Illustration

A 31-day interval training plan

To turn your leisurely walk into a workout, focus on a few things. First, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth like with any cardio exercise. Next, pump the arms as you walk, and pull the navel in towards your spine to engage your core. Pull your shoulders back so that you’re not rounded forward while walking. Keep your ears over your shoulders, and your shoulders over the hips. Practice in front of a mirror to ensure you’re in proper walking posture.

Walking workout A is for beginners. Workout B steps things up a notch by cutting down on recovery time. We mixed in some intervals based on speed, but this will look different for everyone. A leisurely walk is one in which you’re casually walking at your normal pace. A fast walk refers to walking as if you’re in a rush to get somewhere. You’re moving quickly (but not running) and may find it challenging to talk while doing so. This part of the walk gets your heart rate up, but it’s always followed by a leisurely walk to bring your heart rate back down.

We mentioned that walking is a workout that can be done daily, but for this plan we’re going to ease into a walking routine by allotting “rest” days. Feel free to still walk, stretch or do any other workout you enjoy on these rest days. The “rest” days are simply built in for those who want to start slowly and build up their stamina (or get used to carving time out of the day to get outside!).

Walking workout A

  • 3 minutes: leisurely warm up
  • 1 minute: fast walk
  • 2 minutes: leisurely walk
  • 12 minutes: alternate between fast and leisurely pace
  • 3 minute leisurely cool down

Walking workout B

  • 3 minutes: leisurely warm up
  • 1 minute: fast walk
  • 1 minute: leisurely walk
  • 10 minutes: alternate between fast and leisurely pace
  • 1 minute: fast walk
  • 30 seconds: leisurely walk
  • 6 minutes: alternate between fast and leisurely pace
  • 3 minute leisurely cool down

We've kept both workouts around 20 minutes to make them manageable enough to squeeze into your day regardless of how much time you have (no excuses!). But once you get moving, you may want to soak up some more time outdoors. If that's the case, simply repeat the intervals for another round (or two if you're feeling ambitious!) before bringing your heart rate down with a leisurely walk at the end.

Try these other walking workouts: