If you're planning to use the treadmill to shave off some pounds, you're choosing a viable form of exercise that can help you achieve your goal. That said though, you'll only get out what you put in. To maximize your efforts on the treadmill, make sure you're using the machine safely and effectively -- and aim to make the workout as challenging as you can handle.
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Warm up by walking at about 50 percent of your maximum effort for about five to 10 minutes. No matter what the workout, warmups help your muscles prepare for the work ahead and help you prevent injuries.
Practice good form. Keep your shoulders back, your chin and head up, and your belly tight, as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. Your stride length should be about the same as when you're walking on regular ground, suggests ACSM. When your posture is properly aligned you'll be using your muscles correctly and avoiding imbalances that can lead to injury. To burn more calories and achieve more fat loss, get your arms into the action. When them alternately with your legs; don't lean them on the arm rests unless you need to regain your balance.
Turn up the speed on the machine. Getting in a good workout involves the right mix of intensity and time, so don't try to run or walk so fast that you can't maintain the pace for more than a few minutes. Instead, choose a moderate speed that you can maintain the whole time. If you're doing a high-intensity workout, however, you'll want to increase the speed on the machine to a faster pace that you can maintain for a very short time.
Use the incline feature, but don't overdo it. Adding more incline will help you burn more calories and burn more fat. For steady-state workouts, try a 2 to 5 percent incline that you can maintain the whole time.
Skip the treadmill's custom workouts feature and try your own version of high-intensity interval training instead. Interval workouts can help you increase your fitness level and boost your metabolism for an entire day after the workout -- so long as you're pushing yourself to about 70 to 90 percent during the intense phase, and then recovering at about 50 percent of max. After your warmup, increase your speed to about 70 to 90 percent of maximum for one minute, and then slow down to 50 percent for another minute, repeating each interval a total of six to eight times. On some machines you may have to change the speed manually; others may allow you to set it the computer to change the speeds automatically. Try this workout two days a week, and then do steady-state exercise the other days of the week.
Aim to work out on the treadmill at least four or five days a week for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, giving yourself at least one day of rest. Because time is a key factor in your success, the more time you devote to exercise, the more calories you'll burn and the more weight you'll lose. At the same time, don't overdo it if you're just starting out. Listen to your body and stop when you need to stop -- otherwise you'll set yourself up for injury or burnout.