Editor’s note: Before beginning a new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.
(CNN) — Walking has long been praised as one of the best exercises for overall health. This physical activity can strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, keep your bones strong, and burn calories. When done outdoors, you get additional benefits from spending time in nature, such as lower stress levels, improved focus, and improved mood.
However, it is not always possible to exercise outdoors. When weather or other factors force you to stay home, consider working out on the treadmill.
The treadmill is one of the three most popular pieces of equipment in US gyms, according to the 2022 IHRSA Gym Consumer Report. Some 53 million people used them in 2017, and the US manufacturing industry of treadmills grew by 2.3% per year on average between 2018 and 2023, reports industry market research group IBISWorld.
However, before you jump on the treadmill and start walking at your preferred pace, consider a workout that changes both pace and incline, which can result in a much more productive session.
“Most people don’t think about using the incline feature on a treadmill,” says Dan Bulay, a certified personal trainer and co-owner of the District Training Facility in Livingston, New Jersey. “But most research will support the idea that the metabolic cost of walking on an incline will dramatically increase the difficulty of training.”
Creating a steeper walk is also an option if you have trouble picking up walking speed or transitioning from walking to running, Bulay said.
For those who can vary both the speed and incline of the treadmill, fitness experts recommend some form of interval training, which involves repeatedly changing the intensity of the workout and/or activities that are performed.
Gillian Dalby, vice president of fitness at the CAZ Training Club in Newport Beach, California, explains that there are countless interval workouts available online and on exercise apps. If the options seem too daunting, Dalby offers you two easy possibilities.
The first: Get on a treadmill and alternate one minute of walking, one minute of jogging, and one minute of running for a total of 18 minutes. “This keeps your mind busy, it’s not monotonous, and it’s an amazing way to build stamina and speed,” says Dalby.
Second: Walk for one minute at no incline, one minute at a 4% incline, and one minute at an 8% incline, repeating this sequence five times.
If either exercise is easy for you, double the time up to 36 minutes or do both one after the other.
“The goal is to get comfortable on the treadmill, and then you can play around with speed and incline as you go,” Dalby says.
If you prefer something more modern, two treadmill workouts that have gone viral on TikTok are the “Taylor Swift Treadmill Strut” and the 12-3-30 workout.
Fashion workouts work
The 37-minute “Taylor Swift Treadmill Strut” requires you to walk to the beat of 10 Taylor Swift songs. It was created by Allie Bennett, a TikTok influencer known for setting treadmill workouts to popular music.
The pace of the first song should be similar to a walking pace of around 4 km/h. From there, the tempo increases on each of the next six songs, requiring you to increase your speed by 0.16 km/h per song. The eighth and ninth songs are much faster. You may have to start running to keep up, although you can stay at a brisk pace. The finale, song 10, serves as a cool down and is the slowest of all.
“I’m a huge fan of Taylor Swift’s beat,” says Bulay. “This workout can be done by the general public without much experience, and it’s entertaining enough to keep most people consistent and engaged throughout its duration.”
Created by TikTok influencer Lauren Giraldo, the 12-3-30 workout uses incline to get fitter and shed pounds. The 30-minute workout is simple: set the treadmill to an incline of 12% and speed to 5 km/h, and hit the road. A simpler version, designed for beginners, provides for the first 15 minutes with an incline of 2.5% and the second 15 minutes with an incline of 8.5%.
“The 3-12-30 workout is also fantastic,” says Bulay. “Low intensity, high incline walking has been a staple in the bodybuilding community for decades.”
This style of training is known as low-intensity steady-state training, or LISS, according to Bulay. It is ideal for those who want to burn a lot of calories without suffering the blows and effort of high-impact workouts, such as running, playing tennis or basketball.
Don’t like fixed workouts? Then try walking on a curved treadmill without a motor. These innovative treadmills are propelled with both feet, and their curved shape is equivalent to walking with an incline of between 6% and 8%.
According to a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, people who walked on non-motorized curved treadmills had significantly higher heart rates and oxygen uptake variables than those who used motorized treadmills.
Similarly, a study published in the academic journal Frontiers in Physiology showed that running on these treadmills provides a significantly higher rate of cardiometabolic stress compared to using a motorized treadmill or running on the floor.
“If your gym has both types of treadmills, try both,” says Dalby. “In the end, what will keep you consistent in your workouts and find it enjoyable? The more fun you have exercising and finding ways to challenge yourself, the more likely you are to continue your fitness journey.”
— Melanie Radzicki McManus is a freelance writer specializing in hiking, travel and fitness.