How to Calculate an Elevation Gain for a Treadmill

A relatively simple calculation can help you estimate elevation gain during your incline treadmill workouts.
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The treadmill has a reputation for getting you nowhere. But if you're strategic about your treadmill gradient, this cardio machine can get you high(er).

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Incline settings on treadmills typically range from 0 percent (flat) to 15 percent, which is equivalent to a pretty steep hill, according to Horizon Fitness, a fitness equipment manufacturer.

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The higher the incline, the harder it will feel to keep moving. In fact, the effort you put into moving at an incline is equivalent to the effort it takes to move at a faster speed on flat ground.

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For example, if you set your treadmill to 5 miles per hour and 2 percent incline, you'd be moving at 11:05 per mile. But if you simulate more of a hill with an 8 percent incline, you're now working at the effort of 8:38 per mile, according to Fleet Feet.

If you're training for trail running, stair running or just looking to improve your vertical stamina and endurance, you might wonder how all that work on an incline actually adds up. Here's a quick way to calculate treadmill elevation gain.

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  1. Divide your treadmill incline setting by 100. For example, if you're walking at a 5 percent incline, 5 divided by 100 is 0.05.
  2. Multiply the answer by the distance you ran or walked on your treadmill. For example, if you went for 4 miles, 0.05 times 4 equals 0.2 miles.
  3. Multiply that answer by the number of feet in a mile, 5,280. For example, 0.2 times 5,280 is 1,056 feet of elevation gain over the course of your workout.

Tip

Keep in mind treadmill incline isn't an exact science, and all treadmill settings will vary slightly.

There are a number of running elevation gain calculators online that can do this math for you (and may even use slightly more advanced or precise calculations) including:

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Treadmill Incline Benefits

You don't have to be training for a race at altitude to benefit from upping the incline on your treadmill workouts. Exercising on the treadmill at an incline burns more calories, burns fat, works your hamstrings and glutes and improves your cardiovascular health, all without increasing impact. Learn more about incline walking benefits.

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