The best treadmill workouts for weight loss

Updated February 21, 2017

Treadmills are versatile and user-friendly pieces of exercise equipment that are staple fixtures in both commercial and home gyms. Treadmills offer several settings for speed, incline, and resistance to vary the intensity of your workout. Though any regular physical activity on a treadmill will boost your cardiovascular health, some treadmill workouts are more effective at burning calories for weight loss than others. Whether you explore your treadmill's pre-programmed workouts or start a weight-loss treadmill routine on your own, knowing the most effective means of burning calories gives you a better chance at seeing the weight loss you're after.

Walk/Jog Workouts

If you are just beginning an exercise routine to lose weight, take into consideration your current level of fitness before you get started on your treadmill. Choosing a workout suited to your current fitness level will not only reduce your risk of injury, but it also increases your likelihood to stick to a long-term routine for the most substantial weight loss benefits. A treadmill workout that combines walking and jogging effectively burns calories while building in recovery time during the workout to prevent overexertion and injury for beginners. A five-minute warmup at speeds between 3 and 4 mph loosens your muscles and prepares your body for exercise. After five minutes, increase your speed to between 4 and 5 mph for 30 seconds. Return to your walking pace for five minutes, and then repeat until you complete a 30-minute workout. If the workout is not challenging enough, increase your incline or jogging time to keep your heart rate raises to about 65 percent of its maximum (See Resources).

Interval Training

The Mayo Clinic endorses interval treadmill workouts as effective means of weight loss because these workouts burn more calories than standard jogging and increase your cardiovascular endurance. Interval workouts are more advanced versions of walk/jog workouts. Interval workouts incorporate short bursts of vigorous, high-intensity jogging or running into a 30-minute or longer treadmill workout. During an interval workout, your heart rate should be at about 85 percent of its maximum for the duration of the high-intensity bursts for the most effective calorie burning and weight loss. Begin an interval training workout in much the same way as a walk/jog workout with a brief warm up to loosen your muscles. During your high-intensity bursts, increase the speed and the incline of your treadmill for the most vigorous effects. Depending on the speed, the anaerobic bursts may be as short as eight seconds or as long as 45 seconds before recovering at a reduced speed for as little as 1 minute or as long as 3 minutes. Keep your intervals to 30 minutes total until your endurance permits for longer workouts.

Strength Training Workouts

Though cardiovascular activities, including walking or jogging, are the most direct way of burning calories to lose weight, strength training activities that increase your lean muscle mass also play an important role in weight loss. Increasing your lean muscle mass increases the effectiveness of your body's metabolism, meaning that you burn calories more efficiently even when you are at rest. A treadmill workout that combines vigorous cardiovascular activity with muscle-building strength training exercise provides the best of both worlds for optimal weight loss. One way to incorporate strength training into your treadmill workout is to increase the incline of the treadmill so that you are essentially running uphill. Uphill running engages your thigh and gluteal muscles for a more intense workout. Another option is to wear wrist or ankle weights for added resistance and increased toning benefits during your workout.

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About the Author

Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.