Walking on the treadmill at home or at the gym can improve your mental and physical health. If you’re not into running marathons but you are down to crush a TV marathon while you walk, you’re still doing your bod a major favor. These workouts will help you make the most of your time on the treadmill.
Is walking on the treadmill a good workout?
Walking on the treadmill can be as heart-healthy as running, according to a large 2013 analysis — but it does depend on how hard you push yourself.
Study participants who put as much physical exertion into a walking workout as other participants put into running had similar decreases in their risk for hypertension and diabetes.
As with any other cardio workout, you’ll also burn calories, lose fat, and build muscle. These workouts will help you get it done.
Your treadmill routine doesn’t have to be complicated to get results.
Start simple by walking it out with this 30-minute routine:
- 5 minutes. A 0–1 percent incline works fine here. Start at a walking speed where you could still comfortably hold a FaceTime convo (1–3 mph).
- 5 minutes. Turn up the dial to a 1–2 percent incline. Now you should be struggling a bit to get out all the juicy deets of your convo (2–6 mph).
- Repeat for 20 more minutes. Cycle between these speeds and inclines.
Craving a bigger challenge? Crank up the speed or incline as needed.
If you’re looking to lose weight, finding your fat-burning heart rate can help you work out effectively. This is the zone where you’ll burn the most calories per minute, and yes, you can reach it just by walking.
Here’s how to find your fat-burning heart rate zone:
Calculate your max heart rate. This is the max number of times your heart can beat during 1 minute of exercise. Your max heart rate is about 220 minus your age. So, if you’re 30, your max heart rate is 190.
Find your fat-burn sweet spot. Your fat-burning zone is about 70 percent of your max heart rate. So, if your max heart rate is 190 beats per minute, your fat-burn zone is 70 percent of 190, or 133 beats per minute.
Now, keep tabs on your heart rate with a heart rate monitor (or smartwatch) as you walk:
- 5 mins. Warm up at low speed with the treadmill totally flat.
- 1 min. Set the incline to 2 percent. Walk at a moderate speed.
- 15–30 mins. Walk at a speed that gets you into your fat-burning zone. (You’ll prob need to pump your arms for this.)
- 1 min. Return to walking at a moderate speed.
- 5 mins. Cool down by slowing your pace.
Since everyone’s different, you might hit your fat-burning zone at anywhere from 50–80 percent of your max heart rate. If you’re not sure what’s best for you, a personal trainer may be able to help.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of exercise that involves alternating periods of high intensity exercise and rest.
Tight on time? A 2017 research review found that HIIT workouts are an effective way to reduce body fat and burn cals in almost half as much time as you would while doing continuous exercise.
Now, let’s HIIT it:
- 5 mins. Warm up at an easy pace with no incline.
- 30 secs. Run (or, if you’d rather not run, speed-walk like your life depends on it).
- 1 min. Walk at a moderate pace.
- Repeat 5–10 times. Do what feels right here. Sometimes, if you can convince yourself to do at least 5 rounds, you’ll find yourself wanting to do 10. Other days, you’ll be like, “Nah.”
- 5 mins. Cool down by walking slowly with no incline. You did it!
Want to make it harder? Add more minutes to each high intensity set or crank up the speed or incline. Just make sure your rest intervals are about twice as long as your HIIT intervals.
Whether you’re on a mountain or on the treadmill, there’s nothing like walking uphill to get your glutes screaming.
If you want to build more muscle, get your incline on with the following routine:
- 5 mins. Walk at a slow pace to warm up, keeping the incline at zero.
- 1 min. Speed-walk, keeping the incline at zero.
- Up the incline by 1 percent each minute. Repeat until you reach an 8–10 percent incline (or hey, as high as you can go).
- Decrease the incline by 1 percent each minute. Climb back down the ladder. Repeat until you’re at a 0–1 percent incline.
- 5 mins. Cool down with an easy walking pace.
Want to make it easier? Only increase the incline by half of a percentage point each minute. Repeat until you reach a 4–5 percent incline, then climb back down.
Got a need for speed?
Most treadmills these days come with preprogrammed speed interval workouts. These are kind of like HIIT workouts, but they don’t necessarily stick to the same interval pattern.
If you want to up your walking speed, try one of your treadmill’s programs or do the following at a 0–1 percent incline:
- 5 mins. Warm up at 2 mph.
- 5 mins. Pick up the pace — shoot for a 4–5 mph walking pace.
- 5 mins. Time to speed-walk like you mean it — go as fast as you (safely!) can.
- 5 mins. Phew! Dip back down to that 4–5 mph pace.
- 5 mins. Speed it up.
- 5 mins. Slow it back down.
- 5 mins. Cool down at 2 mph.
Pro tip: If you’re looking to boost your walking speed, you should feel like you’re working as hard as you can on the speed segments, at 80–90 percent of your max heart rate.
You can also try the same workout at a jog or a sprint.
Walking on a treadmill is a legit workout that can burn cals and fat and benefit your heart and brain health.
To max out weight loss benefits, consider HIIT treadmill workouts and find your fat-burning zone. If you’re not sure where to start, ask a personal trainer for advice.