How Long Should You Walk on a Treadmill Per Day?

Whether you're looking to lose weight, improve heart health or boost your mood, walking on a treadmill can be an effective way to reach your goals. Just 30 minutes a day is a good place to start, but in time you might find yourself wanting to walk even more.

Set a goal of walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workout for even greater results. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Tip

Set a goal of walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workout for even greater results.

Benefits of Treadmill Walking

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends getting 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of more vigorous activity. You can enhance the health benefits even more by walking up to 60 minutes a day. You may also choose to combine moderate and vigorous activities throughout the week.

You'll likely enjoy numerous benefits with a regular walking routine, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can lose or maintain weight, decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and strengthen your bones and muscles. Expect improved balance and coordination, plus an elevated mood, the more you lace up your walking shoes.

The benefits of treadmill walking may extend to the workplace, too. In a small study published in February 2014 in the journal PLoS One, employee participants traded chairs for treadmills at their financial services company. The 12-month study sought to examine how the availability of treadmill workstations affected employees.

At the conclusion of the study, the results suggested that the introduction of treadmill workstations had a significant positive effect on employees' physical and work performance. They increased their total average daily calorie burn by around 74 calories as a result of adding treadmill walking to their day. The quality and quantity of their work, as well as their interactions with coworkers, also showed improvements.

Burn Calories as You Walk

If you're looking to lose weight, walking on a treadmill will help you burn calories to meet your goal. The calorie burn depends on your weight and walking speed.

For example, a 155-pound person walking at 3.5 mph will burn about 149 calories in 30 minutes, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Increasing the speed to 4 mph boosts the calorie burn to about 167 calories for that same person.

To lose a pound of fat, you'll need to burn more calories than you consume each day. Cutting about 500 calories a day will help you lose about 1 pound per week, according to MedlinePlus. You can achieve that calorie deficit through a combination of exercise and a healthy diet.

Aim for a diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, with limited fats and added sugar. Simply eliminating sugary drinks and alcohol, swapping out unhealthy snacks for nutritious options and controlling portion size are just a few of the ways to cut your calories.

Add Intensity to Your Workout

With a more intense treadmill workout, you'll increase your calorie burn even further. For example, you can add an incline to use more of your muscles and boost caloric needs, explains Harvard Health Publishing. Increasing the speed of your walking or adding short periods of running will also help you add intensity to your workout.

In fact, brief bursts of more vigorous exercise mixed with recovery periods is an effective way to burn more calories. Known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), this type of workout increases the oxygen demands on your body, says the American Council on Exercise. As a result, you'll have an increased caloric expenditure both during and after your workout.

For a treadmill HIIT workout, space out your interval and recovery periods evenly. Here's one possible HIIT routine:

  1. Start with a quick warm-up of moderate-paced walking for about three to five minutes.
  2. Jog or run for 30 seconds.
  3. Walk for 90 seconds.
  4. Repeat several times for a total of 20 to 30 minutes.

You can perform longer intervals and shorter recovery periods as you build up endurance or to mix up your routine. Traditional Tabata-style training, for example, includes 20 seconds of intense effort with just 10 seconds of recovery time in between.

HIIT should be challenging enough that you're left breathless at the end of each work interval. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the lowest intensity and 10 is the highest, HIIT should be performed at a level of 8 or higher for 30 seconds or less, says ACE. The same is true of Tabata training. It's the extreme intensity and short duration of the efforts that distinguishes this form of training from other types of vigorous workouts.

Trim Fat With the Treadmill

Burning calories on the treadmill will not only help you lose weight, but also eliminate dangerous fat around the internal organs of your midsection. This visceral fat — different from the fat you can pinch with your fingers — is concerning, due to its link with a variety of health problems.

Impaired insulin regulation, increased risk of heart disease and high cholesterol are just a few of the issues linked with visceral fat, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Note that you cannot spot-reduce belly fat or any other fat by walking on a treadmill, but you'll be burning overall body fat.

If you're unsure whether visceral fat is a problem for you, you may wish to evaluate your own abdominal obesity risk factors. One simple, inexpensive method is to measure your own waist circumference. Here's how:

  1. Take off your shoes and stand with your feet together.
  2. Exhale fully.
  3. Using a flexible measuring tape, measure your waist at the navel with a bare belly.
  4. Write down your measurement to the nearest one-tenth of an inch.

For men, a waist circumference of 37 inches and below is considered a low risk. For women, it's 31.5 inches. High risk is considered 40 inches and above for men, and 35 inches and above for women.

Add Strength Training

Although you can achieve your weight-loss and health goals with treadmill walking, consider adding at least two days of strength training a week. As you add muscle, your body will become more efficient at burning calories. The added muscle may also help you improve your balance and bone strength, resulting in stronger treadmill workouts.

Strength training can include dumbbells, barbells, weight machines and resistance bands. You can also incorporate body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, planks and abdominal crunches.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend strength-training all major muscle groups at least twice a week. You can either perform total-body training sessions, or break up your workouts over multiple days and isolate different muscle groups.

Take time to rest, too. One full day off from exercise will help your body recover and let your muscles grow. You can make it an active rest day by performing light activities, such as a slow treadmill walk. Perhaps take the opportunity to get outdoors for a light hike — the fresh air might do you some good.

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