The aim of this treadmill benefits guide is to describe the many ways that exercising on treadmill can improve your health and fitness. We will start off by going into detail on some of the benefits such as heart health and weight loss, then move on to talk about the different ways to work out on a treadmill and some common mistakes to avoid. If you are thinking about buying a treadmill then understanding how it will impact your health and fitness is important. It’s also key to understand what your goals are, so you select one that has the features to suit your needs.
Benefits of training on a treadmill
The type of exercise you carry out on a treadmill can be more varied than many would first think. You can walk, jog, run and climb. A workout can last as long as you wish, from quick interval training alternating slow and fast running, to long steady paced walks. This variety means that a treadmill can provide a number of health and fitness benefits.
Calorie burning and weight loss
Any form of exercise burns calories, and burning calories helps you lose weight. You need to ensure that you create a calorie deficit. Burn more calories than you consume, and over time you will lose weight naturally.
Exercising at a steady pace for an extended period of time – steady state cardio – burns a lot of calories. The amount of calories relates to the length of time you exercise, the pace at which you move, and your size and weight. Adding an incline makes exercising tougher and burns more calories. An average sized person (155 lbs, 11 stone, 70 kilos) burns 267 calories an hour walking at average speed (3.5 mph). Jogging at 5 mph would burn 563 calories in an hour, and up the pace slightly to 7 mph and 809 calories are burned. A person 50 lbs heavier would burn calories at a 32% higher rate.
Carrying out high intensity interval training (HIIT) has become popular in recent years. The basics of this way of training are alternating between periods of exercising at great intensity and rest periods. On a treadmill this would be alternating between running at maximum pace and jogging slowly to recover. Interval training burns more calories than steady state cardio over the same time period. You also benefit from an “afterburn” effect where calorie burning increases for hours after the workout has finished.
Health experts recommend five 30 minute periods of exercise a week to reduce risks of heart disease and other long term health issues. These five periods of exercise can be as simple as just walking at moderate pace. A treadmill is ideal for this.
Longer periods of steady state cardio, or high intensity interval training workouts, add to this and build stamina and endurance. The heart is a muscle and like any muscle it strengthens and become more efficient through use. This means the more you exercise the better the heart becomes at pumping blood around the body. Regular exercise will reduce resting heart rate and increase your levels of fitness.
When you become out of breath from working out the lungs adapt and become more efficient. Their capacity increases and are able to take in more oxygen with each breath. They also become more efficient at absorbing oxygen into the blood stream. Meaning more oxygen gets to the muscles, so they can operate at greater levels for longer.
Exercising on a treadmill will work out and tone the muscles in your legs. The calves, quads (thigh), hamstrings, and glutes (buttocks) will all become stronger and more toned. If you ramp up the incline it will work them even harder.
If you are training for a specific goal related to running then a treadmill is an ideal piece of equipment. For example if you are training to run a long distance event such as a marathon you can do so on a treadmill. It’s a safe convenient way to do so.
Training for other endurance events such as hiking or climbing can also be carried out on a treadmill. You can increase the incline replicate climbing a hill. Put on your hiking boots and a pack on your back and you can replicate what you are aiming for. Do it at home and avoid the embarrassing looks you’ll get at the gym!
Modern life puts a lot of strain on peoples natural posture. Siting down, for instance in front of a computer, for long periods encourages us to “hunch” over. When walking or running on a treadmill it is key to hold yourself upright, with shoulders back and head looking forward. Working out this way will strengthen the muscles in the back that act to correct poor posture.
Training for speed is like training for anything else, you need to push your body to run as fast as possible, increasing the level in increments. Treadmills are suitable for training speed endurance rather than out and out sprinting pace. Speed endurance is how long you can maintain certain speed for, for example the pace required to run a 5 minute mile.
There are programs built into treadmills that can train you this way, or you can do it manually. A manual exercise program would involve gradually increasing the pace that you can run a certain distance for. One you reach the desired pace you start to increase the distance over which you can maintain that pace. This is a good way to train for long distance events that you aim to complete in a set time.
You can build the strength in your legs by using a treadmill, especially by setting it to a high degree of incline. The incline means you are lifting your body weight at the same time as propelling yourself forwards. This works your muscles in the same way as resistance training with weights would.
Two components of strength are improved. Overall maximum strength and strength endurance. The maximum strength represents the total force the leg muscles can produce, while strength endurance is how long the leg muscles are able to carry on working under increased strain.
Injury recovery and management
Treadmills are designed to absorb some of the impact of running when compared to running on the road or pavement. This makes them more suitable for those that have current or past issues with the joints in their lower body. When recovering from an injury, using a treadmill can be a safe and easy way to work back to fitness.
General feeling of well-being
Exercise, such as 20 minutes or more of running, releases hormones known as Endorphins. These make you feel great after exercise, a feeling often described as euphoric. This is why people get a great buzz from working out, in fact the feeling can become almost addictive. This is linked to regular exercise improving your mood and even reducing chance or levels of depression.
Different types of treadmill workout will have different benefits
The most basic way to exercise on a treadmill. It’s as simple as setting an even, moderate pace, jumping on, and walking for an extended period of time.
The most common reason for walking on a treadmill is weight loss. Walking is not as demanding or high impact as running, but still allows you to burn a high number of calories when walking regularly and for reasonable lengths of time. An hour, 5 days a week is a very realistic target even for those that need to work on their fitness.
An overweight person walking at a moderate 3 mph will burn +300 calories an hour. That’s ,1500 a week if walking on 5 days.
Running is a love it or hate it form of exercise. People will usually run regularly or not at all, rarely is there a middle ground. For those that run, running on a treadmill is a good option due to the convenience factor.
There are a range of running programs designed to meet different needs. These include specific programs to help train speed, stamina or heart rate. Length of time will vary and relates to what you are specifically training for.
Hill climbing workouts
If you want to build strength and endurance in your leg muscles then hill climbing workouts are perfect. The incline on a treadmill will typically reach 15 degrees but some specifically designed ones will go higher.
Those training for specific goals, such as an upcoming trek, train this way. But many people do just for strength building. There are pre-set programs with varying incline, or you can just set a certain gradient and keep walking/running for an extended period.
Interval training involves varying intensity between high and low to push yourself hard and then allow a period of recovery. On a treadmill this involves pushing yourself by increasing speed, incline, or both. After this period of higher intensity the treadmill drops to slower speed or lower incline, before ramping them up again.
This type of workout is great for developing speed, strength, endurance, stamina and calorie burning. However it is also the most demanding type of treadmill exercise so can not be carried out too regularly. Two or three times a week should be the maximum.
Common treadmill mistakes to avoid
Holding the handrails
Holding the handrails makes working out on a treadmill easier. Therefore you see less benefits from exercising this way. It is also an unnatural way to move, meaning posture and gait are incorrect. This can lead to increased risk of injury and posture problems. The only time to hold the handrails is when reading your heart rate.
Climbing off a moving treadmill
This can be dangerous. You run the risk of slipping, and falling onto a moving treadmill will hurt much more than a stationary one. Always stop the belt from moving before you step off.
Unnatural stride length
You need your stride to feel natural if you walking or running. If it feels unnatural you are moving either too fast or too slow. You will end up either squashed up at the front of the running belt or too far back towards the end.
Moving with unnatural stride for too long will lead to increased risk of injury or accident.
You often see people with their head leaning forward to read a book or look at their smart device. This encourages “hunching” over and is bad for your posture. As we said earlier, poor posture can lead to increased risk of injury.
Final thoughts on treadmill benefits
As we’ve covered, exercising on a treadmill has many benefits. Hopefully you’ve read enough to start including a treadmill in your regular exercise routine.
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