Can Walking on the Treadmill Tone My Legs and Butt?

Walking is good exercise that almost anyone can do. Even overweight people or those seriously out of condition can walk at least a little. Walking helps shed pounds, improves cardiovascular fitness and builds or tones muscles. Walking on a treadmill can be as good as walking outdoors and is something that can be done year-round without interference from weather. All gyms, fitness centers and many homes now have treadmills.

A woman workout with a treadmill.
Credit: prudkov/iStock/Getty Images

Walk Normally

Even when first starting to walk on a treadmill, set the incline at slightly above flat, to compensate for the lack of wind resistance. Walk normally but hold the handrails if stability is a problem. Build up to walking without holding on, as arm movements will make the walking stride more normal and improve the cardio benefit. Walk slowly until you adapt to the moving tread; then gradually increase your speed. The normal gait on a relatively flat surface will target all of the muscles of your legs and your butt. Toning with this exercise will depend on how many times a week and how long you walk. A suggested schedule is five to seven days a week at a speed of 3.0 minimum for 30 plus minutes.

Change Incline

Raise the incline to get maximum benefit for your quads and butt. The action of stepping up will work those muscles more, helping make the legs and buttocks firmer. It's best to vary the incline. Start slowly with a low level and gradually step it up. Walk at the maximum height only for short periods to allow muscles to recover with a more gradual slope.

Vary Speed and Stride

Vary the speed so your muscles don't adapt to just one pace. Work out at a comfortable, "normal" pace at which you can walk easily. Use that as your base and vary the intensity up and down from that base level. Lengthen strides when you increase the incline and shorten them when you work back down. Concentrate on your walking for maximum toning; focus on your stride rather than a television screen.

Walk Backward

Walk backward at intervals, for short periods, to simulate a downhill walk that works the back of your legs, hamstrings and calves. Try side-stepping at times, if you can do it comfortably, to work the inside of your legs. Don't do the same workout every day; make a plan that calls for long, slow walks one day and shorter, more intense walks the next.

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