Treadmills are good options on days when the weather does not allow for walking outside, or for those whose symptoms or balance prohibit walking outside on uneven surfaces. The first step is to make sure that you buy a good treadmill that has plenty of cushioning and secure handrails to hold onto. The amount of time you should walk on a treadmill depends on what your goals are.
If you're using a treadmill for weight loss it will be important to make the workout vigorous enough to burn off calories. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so to lose 1 lb. per week, a daily treadmill workout must burn off 500 calories each day. To lose 2 lbs. per week, walking must be challenging enough to burn off 1,000 calories each time.
Some treadmills will track the amount of calories you're burning. However if you use this feature, make sure that the treadmill allows you to input your gender, age and current weight, as all of the above affect the number of calories actually burned. If the treadmill cannot be programmed this way, you can wear heart rate monitors that will do the same thing.
For the best benefit, the MayoClinic.com recommends walking at a moderate pace for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week. However, if you are new to exercise it is best to start with just 10 to 15 minutes and work up gradually to avoid injuries.
Preventing and Managing Chronic Disease
A daily walking program can also help to prevent and manage many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The American Heart Association, states that "you can gain about two hours of life for every hour of regular vigorous exercise you do." Walking or any type of aerobic exercise can your lower heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels along with regulating blood sugar levels.
To achieve these benefits, the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, at 50 to 85 percent of personal maximum heart rate, on most days of the week. While treadmills often have a finger device to check the pulse or heart rate, the finger is not the most accurate place to test the heart rate. It is better to wear a heart rate monitor or learn how to take the pulse manually.
However, caution should be used if you are taking any kind of medications, as many different types of prescription, herbal and over-the-counter drugs can alter the heart rate. A physician can advise on a good heart rate target to reach for.
Arthritis or Injury Recovery
When you're dealing with joint pain from arthritis or if you're recovering from a surgical procedure, walking can be a way to regain strength and flexibility. In these cases, it is important to walk only at a pain-free level. Also instead of walking for one 30-minute segment, it may be more helpful to do shorter periods several times throughout the day to help manage stiffness. A doctor or physical therapist can help to set up a plan.
"Arthritis Today" magazine suggests aiming for 3,300 steps every day. Inexpensive pediometers can track the number of steps you take throughout the day. As pain and stiffness decrease, it may become possible to work up to one 30-minute session.
Throughout life the bones go through a process of breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bone. Up until your 20s new bone is laid down faster and peak bone mass is reached. After that, bone material may be broken down faster than it is replaced. If too much bone is lost the bones can become weak and osteoporosis can develop. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures, which can be disabling.
Along with diet and medication, weight bearing exercises such as walking on a treadmill, can help to stop bone loss and in some cases even stimulate bone growth. To prevent or manage osteoporosis, the National Osteoporosis Foundation, recommends aiming for 30 minutes of weight bearing exercise on most days of the week. Beginners can start with shorter sessions and gradually work up to one longer session.
While walking on a treadmill offers many health benefits, it is important to walk correctly to prevent injury. It is important to start a walking session slowly and let the body warm up for about five minutes before increasing the speed and/or incline. It is just as important to take time to stretch after the workout. Use good posture when you're on the treadmill. Do not grab the handrails tightly as this can raise blood pressure and do not lean on them for support. Stand up straight and keep the shoulders over the hips to avoid back pain. Wear good supportive shoes and only work within personal limits. Going too hard too fast will cause injury and excessive soreness and fatigue.