30-Minute Walk with Cardio Intervals

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Trade your typical walking workout for this routine that turns up the intensity—and fun!

Some things, like family recipes that have been passed down through the years, shouldn’t change. But your walking workout isn’t one of them.

Walking is absolutely one of the best activities anyone can do. The problem: Doing the same routine over and over makes it easier to put your body and brain on autopilot. And when you’re just going through the motions, your results will stall—and you’ll get bored.

Luckily, all you need to do is shake up your walking routine to challenge your body and brain in new ways. That’s where this 30-minute walk with cardio intervals comes in.

You’ll do a mix of steady-state walking, aerobics-based bodyweight moves, and interval walking. “The key with intervals is we work hard when we work hard,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack. “And then we come to a full rest so we can push a little bit again.”

How the 30-Minute Walk with Cardio Intervals Works

You can do this workout on a treadmill or outdoors. You’ll pause to do some bodyweight moves during your walk, so if you’re using a treadmill, choose one in an area with less foot traffic and open floor space around it.

Warm up with at least three to five minutes of easy walking. Then perform the workout below. Cool down with deep breathing and stretches of your choice.

During your workout, pay attention to how you feel. Specifically, tune in to your rate of perceived exertion (RPE): On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest, how hard are you working?

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

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Exercise #1: Steady-State Walk

5 minutes, 5 to 6 RPE

Build up to a brisk walk. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest you can work, you want to be at a 5 or 6. You may be breathing harder, but you have enough energy to talk if you want.

At the end of the five minutes, stop the treadmill. When it stops completely, step off safely to do some cardio intervals with bodyweight moves.

Exercise #2: Step and Reach

1 minute

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with one foot, touching your hands together in front of you. Step back. Continue for 30 seconds, alternating feet. Rest for 30 seconds.

Exercise #3: Side Tap

1 minute

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step out to the side with one foot, and follow it with your other foot, tapping it on the floor. Repeat in the opposite direction.

You can do what feels right for your arms. Make it easier by resting your hands on your hips, or make it harder by moving your arms with your legs. Continue for 30 seconds, alternating directions. Rest for 30 seconds.

Exercise #4: Step Back Arm Raise

1 minute

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with one foot, raising your arms out to your sides to shoulder level. Step forward. Continue for 30 seconds, alternating feet. Rest for 30 seconds.

Repeat Exercises #2, #3, and #4

3 minutes

Exercise #5: Steady-State Walk

5 minutes, 5 to 6 RPE

Resume your walk, building up to a brisk pace. Remember, you may be breathing harder, but you should be able to talk if you want.

At the end of the five minutes, stop the treadmill. When it stops completely, step off safely to do some cardio intervals with bodyweight moves.

Do 2 Rounds of Exercises #2, #3, and #4

6 minutes

Exercise #6: Walking Intervals

6 minutes, varying exertion levels

“This is where I might want to push a little harder,” Jack says. “I don’t have to increase my speed and run to do that. I can bring up my incline—same speed, I’m going to start working harder.”

Of course, if you prefer to pick up your speed and run, that’s fine.

Whether you bump up incline or speed, the goal is the same. You’ll want to alternate between easier (3 to 4 RPE) and harder (7 to 8 RPE) intervals of walking:

  • 1 minute, 3 to 4 RPE: You can easily hold a conversation.
  • 1 minute, 7 to 8 RPE: You are working hard and can’t talk.
  • 1 minute, 3 to 4 RPE
  • 1 minute, 7 to 8 RPE
  • 1 minute, 3 to 4 RPE
  • 1 minute, 7 to 8 RPE

Exercise #7: Cooldown Walk

2 minutes, 2 to 3 RPE

Slow down to rest and relax. Feel your heart rate and breathing start to return to normal.

When you’re done, stop the treadmill, and step off safely. Cool down and stretch on your own. Need ideas? Try these five stretches you should do after every walk.

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