Lose Weight, Tone Up and Get Fit With Treadmill Walking Workouts

Walking is a natural movement, but it can also be an effective workout. (Image: izusek/E+/GettyImages)

Walking on a treadmill can be a convenient, customizable workout that burns calories and boosts your fitness. But are they challenging enough to help you lose weight or give you strong, toned legs? The answer might surprise you.

Even though walking on a treadmill might seem easy, the benefits can add up. Especially when you challenge yourself by picking up the pace or adding in steeper inclines. Here's everything you need to know to get the most from your treadmill walking workouts.

Are Treadmill Walking Workouts Good for Weight Loss?

They sure can be! Walking gets your heart rate up and burns calories — between 90 to 200 calories in 30 minutes, depending on your weight and the intensity of your workout. And when combined with a healthy diet, that can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight, as well as lower your risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

You can reap those benefits whether you walk indoors or out. A May 2019 review of 34 studies published in Sports Medicine found that there's not much difference between moving outdoors or on a treadmill: In both cases, exercisers' perceived effort and oxygen intake (which is an indicator of how hard they're working) were pretty much the same.

However, you'll need to set your treadmill incline to mimic the resistance you'd experience walking outside. Around one percent should do the trick, suggests a Journal of Sports Sciences study.

Treadmill Walking vs. Walking Outside: Which Is Better?

Both can be good, but each has its own unique advantages. One of the best things about treadmill walking is being able to control the speed and incline, say Cortney Logan and Alexandra Weissner, co-founders of bRUNch Running. If you want to set a certain pace or mimic a super steep hill, all you have to do is press a button. And of course, you never have to worry about missing a workout because of bad weather.

Treadmill walking might also have an edge if you're worried about injuries. There's less risk of tripping on cracked sidewalks or uneven ground. The cushier surface also means you're less prone to overuse injuries like shin splints or back, hip or knee pain from walking at wonky angles, says Los Angeles-based fitness coach Jill Brown. "If the road you walk on has a slight slant, over time this can create a muscular imbalance from walking with one leg a little higher than the other," she says.

Strolling outdoors has its own perks. You'll reap the mood-boosting benefits of spending time outdoors. Plus, walking from point A to point B usually means there are more interesting things to look at (and you can't just hop off when you get tired or bored). Still, it's not necessarily better than walking on a treadmill. The best place to walk is the one that offers more pros for you.

Make the Most of Your Treadmill Walking Workouts

Since you encounter slightly less resistance when you walk on a treadmill compared to walking outside, it's important to account for that difference. If you want to get a workout that's equally challenging or that burns the same number of calories as an outdoor walk, "set the incline to at least one percent to help simulate the resistance of a real road," Brown says.

Aside from that? Maxing out the benefits of your treadmill walk depends on your individual goals. If you're aiming to…

Lose weight: Ramp up the intensity to bump up your calorie burning. That could mean walking at a faster pace, turning up the incline or both. "Increase it to the point where your heart rate speeds up and you start to breathe heavy," Brown says. For most people, that speed is between 3.5 and 4.0 mph.

Strengthen or tone your legs or butt: An incline treadmill workout will make your lower-body muscles work harder. "When you walk up a hill or incline your glutes become highly engaged," say Logan and Weissner. "This will result in a stronger butt, glutes and hamstrings." They recommend walking for three minutes at a one-percent incline, walking for two minutes at a six-percent incline, maintaining your speed, then repeating the cycle two to three more times. For an added challenge, increase the incline with each cycle.

Boost your overall fitness level: If you're brand new to exercise, any amount of treadmill walking will improve your endurance, Logan and Weissner say. Past the newbie phase? "Intervals can improve your fitness faster than going at a steady, moderate pace," Brown says. Try alternating one minute of walking at an easy pace followed by one minute at a faster pace.

A few other things to keep in mind, regardless of your goal: Stand tall and keep a good posture in your spine and shoulders, Brown says. And do not hold onto the treadmill railings. It stiffens your spine (ouch!), and it can unintentionally make your workout easier, meaning you burn fewer calories, says Brown.

30-Minute Treadmill Walking Workout for Beginners

Want to give treadmill walking a try but aren't quite sure where to begin? Start with this simple 30-minute treadmill workout from Logan and Weissner. You'll kick off your walk at a pace here you can comfortably hold a conversation and gradually increase the intensity. As your fitness improves over time, you can set the baseline speed and incline a little higher.

  • 10 minutes: warm up at conversation pace (1.0 to 3.0 mph) at 0 to 1% incline
  • 3 minutes: walk 1 mph over conversation pace at 0.5 to 1% incline
  • 2 minutes: walk 2 to 3 mph over conversation pace at 2% incline
  • 3 minutes: walk 1 mph over conversation pace at 0.5 to 1% incline
  • 2 minutes: walk 2 to 3 mph over conversation pace at 4% incline
  • 3 minutes: walk 1 mph over conversation pace at 0.5 to 1% incline
  • 2 minutes: walk 2 to 3 mph over conversation pace at 2% incline
  • 5 minutes: cool down at conversation pace (1.0 to 4.0 mph) at 0 to 1% incline

Regardless of where you might be on your fitness journey, keep in mind that treadmill walking should be something that makes you feel good. "This is not a competition," Logan and Weissner say. "It's about just getting moving and finding something that makes you feel good about yourself."

PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.