Photo courtesy Focus Fitness
Before we get started I just want to say thank you and props to Jacob Lucs, Jordan Foley and Mark Giffin for an amazing weekend at the Canadian Powerlifting Union Coaching Workshop & Seminar at The Vault Barbell Club in Guelph two weekends ago.
In May of last year I got to meet former pro-bodybuilder & world record powerlifter Stan “the Rhino” Efferding. In addition to numerous other knowledge bombs in lifting & business – one of the big concepts he drew my attention to, through his presentation & videos, was the concept of the “10 minute walk.” In this article I discuss the concept of the 10 minute walk & the science behind. I also take the concept a step further to discuss how short, frequent, daily walks can be applied for various diseased, pained and healthy populations.
The 10 minute walk … and how it originated
The concept of the 10 minute walk started with research that was done in Australia on people with Type 2 Diabetes. Research showed that a 10 minute walk after each meal (3 times/day) was more effective than a single 30 minute daily walk for improving insulin sensitivity & glucose levels. An earlier study also showed that a 10 minute walk times a day improved blood pressure more than single daily 30 minute walk. And an informal experiment that came out this year showed that doing 3-10 minute walks a day at a brisk pace resulted in more moderate to vigorous physical activity than doing the traditional 10,000 steps a day.
At this event, and in Stan’s later videos, he’s discussed how he’s used these 10 minute walks with his clients (including Hafthor Bjornsson and Brian Shaw) in combination with either a calorie deficit or surplus for weight loss or muscle gain goals, respectively. Stan recommends doing these walks 2-4 times a day after a meal.
- Improved cardiovascular & metabolic health
- Improved sleep
- Improved mental health
Short, frequent walks also have many benefits compared to single walks such as
- Ease of fitting into a busy schedule
- Less monotony
- More frequent activity & shorter sitting durations
Side note: sitting is not the new smoking like many would have you believe but, for most people, less sitting & more movement is overall better for health.
So as you can see 10 minute walks are definitely a great idea if you can do them but….
I work with clinical populations. They’ll never be able to tolerate three 10 minute walks daily!!
Some populations – be it due to deconditioning or pain may not be able to do these sessions. This doesn’t mean however that they can’t reap the benefits of short, frequent daily walks – just that the sessions have to be modified.
Some clinical populations that may not be ideal for these are
- People who are contradicted for exercise due to cardiovascular or metabolic reasons. I recommend you look up the ACSM & CSEP guidelines for a full list of these contraindications.
- People with weight bearing restrictions or limitations post fracture, dislocation, or surgery
- People who have balance issues and are at high falls risk
Two populations that I use short, frequently, daily walks with a lot are
1) People with respiratory diseases
2) People with low back pain and/or lower limb pain
3) I also use these with people in cardiac rehab … but a discussion of cardiac rehab is outside of the scope of a quick 500-1000 word blog.
Getting back to those populations I mentioned earlier
1) People with respiratory diseases – I’m a big fan of interval training for people with COPD, asthma, and other conditions as its less monotonous and allows for more recovery & less shortness of breath. In these populations I’ll have clients walk for anywhere from between 15-60s at a 4-8/10 RPE (sometimes less than that), rest for 45-120s, and repeat for 8-30 minute long sessions. As with people with musculoskeletal pain, I like to increase the number of intervals before decreasing rest periods.
2) People with low back or lower limb musculoskeletal pain (i.e. OA)
Some research has shown interestingly enough that walking can be just as effective as core stability training for people with back pain. The trick is to have it dosed in a way that doesn’t increase long term symptoms.
For walking duration – I like to have these people stop just before their pain would increase. The frequency of walks is inversely proportional to the duration of walking that is tolerated. If someone has pain after 20 steps of walking I will have them walk for 15 step intervals as frequently as every couple hours through the day. If someone’s pain increases after 30 minutes of walking I may only have them walk twice daily for 20 minutes at a time. This technique was taught to me by professor Stuart McGill in his books Back Mechanic & Gift of Injury with Brian Carroll.
Sometimes; for people who are morbidly obese and are limited due to mobility limitations, balance issues, or musculoskeletal pain; I prefer replacing the walks with stationary bike rides – a tactic Stan has used with some of his larger clients.
I hope this article shows why short, frequent walks are an underrated tool in the fitness arsenal as well as how to apply them to clinical populations that you may work with. As always - thanks for reading.