Using a treadmill is an effective way to get in a workout when the weather isn't conducive to walking outside or if you prefer to walk on a softer surface. And if you want to kick your treadmill session up a notch, setting it on an incline is a great way to do that.
Walking on a relatively steep incline — say, level 10 — has many benefits. Ahead, we'll break down everything you need to know about working out at a 10 percent incline on the treadmill.
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What Does the Incline on a Treadmill Mean?
Treadmills generally go from a 0 percent incline all the way up to a 15 percent incline, according to Horizon Fitness, a fitness equipment manufacturer. A 10 percent incline is equivalent to a pretty steep hill and will therefore be more challenging to walk on than, say, a 2 percent incline, which is similar to flat ground.
The American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA) recommends not starting at a high incline, like 10%, right away. Gradually increase the incline you walk on as your fitness improves and as you feel comfortable doing so. A 10% incline is akin to walking up a steep hill, and it may not be a suitable type of workout for beginners. Always get clearance from your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Incline Treadmill Benefits
1. It Strengthens Your Lower-Body Muscles
Walking on a steep incline of 10 percent works your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves, per the ASFA. Having strong leg muscles can give you more power and endurance while running or strength training, per Harvard Health Publishing. Plus, stronger muscles can ward off injuries.
But strong leg muscles don't only benefit you when it comes to athletic activities. They also allow you to do everyday things — like climbing stairs or squatting down to pick something up off the floor — with ease.
2. It Keeps Your Heart and Lungs Healthy
Because walking uphill on an incline of 10 is more taxing than walking on a flat surface, it allows you to get your heart rate up, increasing the amount of work your heart is doing. Over time, this leads to better lung capacity and cardiovascular endurance, according to the ASFA.
The healthier your lungs and heart are, the easier it is to breathe during exercise and the less likely you are to get out of breath, per the American Lung Association. Your body can also more efficiently transport oxygen to your working muscles when your heart and lungs are in good shape.
3. It's Low-Impact for Your Joints
Walking on an incline is a low-impact exercise, meaning it doesn't place much stress on your joints, per the ASFA. Compare this to running or doing plyometric exercises where you're jumping up and down and exerting a lot of force on your joints.
If you have chronic joint pain or are recovering from an injury, this activity may be a good fit for you. (But be sure to get the green light from your doctor first!)
4. It Burns Calories
Is walking on a 10 percent incline good for weight loss? Because it engages many large muscles in your body, you expend more energy walking on a steep slope like this, compared to walking on flat ground, and you burn more calories, per the ASFA. This can lead to weight loss if you sustain the habit and pair it with a healthy diet.
An Important Note About Weight Loss
The science of weight management is rapidly changing, and weight loss is more nuanced than “eat less, exercise more.” Yes, cutting and burning calories is a key component of weight loss, but there's much more to it. Your ability to lose weight can be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including your genetics, sleep quality, insulin resistance, hormones, gut health and how you manage stress.
Talk to your doctor before you make any big changes to your exercise routine (or diet). They can help you determine if your weight-loss plan is healthy and appropriate for you based on your medical history, health status and medications.
5. It's Efficient
If you don't have a ton of time in your day to get a workout in, consider walking on a 10 percent treadmill incline. Even if you only have 15 minutes to exercise, it'll strengthen your lower body and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than walking on a flat surface, per the ASFA.
Is a 10% incline on a treadmill steep?
Yes, walking on a treadmill set to a 10% incline is similar to walking up a very steep hill. For comparison, setting your treadmill's incline to 1% or 2% is similar to walking outside on flat ground.
What are the advantages of walking on a 10% treadmill incline?
Walking on a steep treadmill incline strengthens your lower-body muscles, burns calories, is joint-friendly and is time-efficient. See above for more about the benefits of walking on a 10% incline.
Can you run on a 10% treadmill incline?
It may be difficult to run on a treadmill set to a 10% incline if you've never done it before or don't have the fitness required to do so. If you do run on a steep incline, it's best to set the treadmill speed to something low and use your treadmill's safety key if needed to stop the treadmill immediately in an emergency. Walking on a 10% incline is generally safer, especially for beginners. Always get the go-ahead from your doctor before running (or walking) on such a steep incline.
- Horizon Fitness: "What Does Incline Mean on Treadmills?"
- ASFA: "7 Remarkable Benefits of Incline Treadmill Walking: Enhance Your Cardio Workout"
- American Lung Association: "Exercise and Lung Health"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Strong legs help power summer activities: Hiking, biking, swimming, and more"