6 Best Treadmill Workouts to Lose Weight and Burn Fat

6 Best Treadmill Workouts to Lose Weight and Burn Fat

Ah, the humble treadmill. Since its introduction into gyms as an exercise machine in the 60s and 70s, the treadmill has become a staple cardio machine in big box, boutique, and even home gyms. It’s not uncommon to find walls upon walls of treadmills at gyms, and even if you don’t have a full home gym set up, you likely have a small treadmill at home. 

The reason why treadmills continue to reign supreme as a gym staple is because they’re so effective for building leg strength and losing weight. And you don’t need to run in purgatory to achieve results, either! By choosing an effective treadmill routine specifically targeted for weight loss, you can spend less time on the treadmill and still transform your body composition.

In this article you’ll learn how to have an effective treadmill workout for weight loss, how to build a treadmill workout to effectively burn fat, as well as 6 of our favourite routines to try on your next run day.

What makes a good treadmill workout for weight loss?

While many people may associate treadmills with torturous running that seems to go on forever, there’s no need to run in fear from treadmill workouts. While most people tend to “set it and forget it” when it comes to treadmill workouts, high-intensity workouts mixed with inclines, and a combination of sprints, jogs and walks can all be effective ways to cut time spent on the treadmill yet still burn calories effectively. For example, a 160 lb person might burn about 150 calories walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes. If they boosted the incline by 5%, they’d burn about 100 more calories. And turning up the incline to 10% could add another 100 calories on top of that. 

3500 calories = 1 lb of fat, so these small changes could really add up quickly, leading to faster weight loss. 

Is a treadmill good for losing belly fat?

Belly fat is caused by a variety of reasons, including a bad diet, lack of exercise, and stress. When the body is stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol, which makes you crave sugary, fatty foods. This leads to a vicious cycle of belly fat gain, stress from weight gain, stress-eating due to high cortisol levels, and more weight gain. Cortisol also deposits fat around your belly. 

Yes, a treadmill is great for losing belly fat with the caveat that your treadmill workout is coupled with a good diet, and proper self care. Have you ever heard the saying, “you can’t outrun a bad diet?” Well, although a good treadmill fitness routine is effective for fat loss and torching belly fat, your diet will ultimately dictate how quickly you see results. For example, running on the treadmill for 30 minutes can burn anywhere from 200-500 calories, depending on your weight and speed. But one Big Mac meal contains 1080 calories. That means, even if you ran your heart out for 30 minutes, you’d still be in a calorie surplus if you indulged in fast food after.

Is a treadmill good for weight loss?

Again, yes. A treadmill is good for weight loss, as long as you utilize a mixture of HIIT workouts, interval workouts, and steady state cardio. You’ll also need to watch your diet as mentioned above and practice self care like prioritizing sleep to reduce stress and cortisol build-up. 

Spin bikes are more commonly used for total-body high-intensity interval training (HIIT), while stationary exercise bikes are used for more controlled cardio and endurance training, mainly focusing on the legs

How much should I workout on a treadmill to lose weight?

You may think that running as much as you can on the treadmill is the best way to lose weight, but that’s a misconception. In order to effectively lose weight on the treadmill, workouts should be between 20-45 minutes long, depending on your fitness level, routine, endurance, and current weight. 

For example, a HIIT treadmill workout (High Intensity Interval Training) involves intervals of high speed, followed by active recovery intervals. During high-speed intervals, you’ll want to elevate your heart rate to Zone 4 (80-90% of your maximum heart rate) to really reap the benefits of HIIT. Because of this, you can afford to do about 20 minutes of HIIT training. HIIT also offers other benefits like the EPOC, or the “afterburn effect,” which means you continue to burn calories even after you’re done running.

On the other hand, if you’re doing steady state cardio you’ll set your treadmill to a speed you can hold for at least 30 minutes and continue running at that speed for a set amount of time. Because there’s no high elevation of the heart rate, you’ll need to spend more time on the treadmill to burn more calories. With steady state cardio, your heart rate should remain in Zone 3, the fat-burning zone. With steady-state cardio, you won’t experience EPOC. Because of that, you’ll want to increase your workout to 30-45 minutes.

Some professional treadmills will also have pre-built workouts, so you can easily follow along without guesswork.  

Will 30 minutes a day on the treadmill help me lose weight?

Yes! 30 minutes a day on the treadmill is an excellent way to lose weight. Be consistent, watch your diet, and watch the weight melt off. 

Best workout on treadmill to lose weight

1. Incline walk

You may have heard of the TikTok workout dubbed “12/3/30”. Basically, this means you’d set your treadmill to a 12% incline, speed at 3 km/h, and walk for 30 minutes. Here’s the full workout:

1. Start with a flat incline or at 1%

2. Warm up for 5 minutes with a brisk walk

3. After 5 minutes, increase the incline to 12%

4. Keep the speed the same and walk for another 30 minutes

5. After 30 minutes, reduce the incline back down to flat or 1% for your cool down

2. Sprint intervals

In this workout, you’ll alternate between high intensity intervals and active rest intervals. Not only does this force you to exert a high amount of energy, burning calories quickly, but as your body recovers from the bursts of high intensity exercise, it further metabolizes body fat for energy. Here’s how to do an effective HIIT treadmill workout:

1. Set your treadmill to a flat incline and walk for 3-4 km/h for 5 minutes to warm up

2. Increase the speed to 15-16 km/h and run for 30-45 seconds

3. Decrease the speed to 5-6 km/h and rest for 30-60 seconds

4. Repeat the run/walk sequence 5-8 times

The nice thing about HIIT training is that you can customize the workout to your own fitness ability, going off your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to make decisions on speed and timing (see more on this below). For example, if you’re more advanced, you may want to increase the speed of high intensity bursts and decrease your rest times. You may also want to alternate between sprinting and jogging, instead of sprinting and walking. As long as you feel like you’re leaving all your effort on the tread everytime you sprint, you’re doing it right. 

3. Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio

If you’re a beginner and can’t quite do HIIT training or incline walks, LISS is a great option to burn calories with a moderate amount of effort. In this workout, you’ll set your treadmill to a speed that you can hold for at least 20-30 minutes and simply jog until time’s up. The key to this is to make sure your heart rate remains in Zone 3 (the fat-burning zone) for most of the time that you’re working out, to reap the full benefits. Your effort should be moderate, with your heart rate hitting about 70-80% of its maximum. With a performance treadmill, you can grab onto the handles to check your heart rate while working out. 

1. Set your tread to a flat incline and walk at 3 km/h to warm up

2. Increase the speed to a do-able speed. For the average person, this will be around 6-8km/h, but feel free to experiment with what works best for you.

3. Run for 20-30 minutes

4. Decrease the speed and walk at 3 km/h to cool down

4. Run - walk - jog

This one’s a spin on HIIT training, allowing you to run, walk, and jog all in the same workout. The upside is that the constant switch in speeds will keep you engaged without getting bored, making time fly by!

1. Set your tread to a flat incline and walk at 3km/h to warm up

2. Increase the speed to a running pace—about 14-16 km/h—and run for 30-45 seconds

3. Decrease the speed to a walking pace—about 4-6 km/h— and walk for 30-45 seconds

4. Increase the speed to a jogging pace—about 9-11 km/h— and jog for 30-45 seconds

5. Repeat the entire sequence 5-8 times

6. Decrease the speed and walk at 3 km/h to cool down

5. Up the hill, down the hill

This treadmill workout is simple and short, but extremely effective in burning fat quickly. The premise is simple, the execution not so much. In a nutshell, you’ll start off with a flat incline and increase the incline by 1% every minute while attempting to hold your pace. Once you’ve reached the maximum incline, decrease it by 2% every minute until you’re back to a flat road. 

1. Set your tread to a flat incline and walk at 3 km/h to warm up

2. Increase the incline by 1% and increase your speed to a jogging pace

3. After 1 minute, increase the incline by 1% again

4. Continue doing the above until you reach the maximum incline on the treadmill. At this point, you may need to start walking, and that’s okay!

5. Once you’ve reached the maximum incline, run or walk for 1 minute, then decrease the incline by 2%

6. Keep decreasing the incline by 2% every minute until you’re back running on a flat incline

7. Decrease the speed and walk at 2 km/h to cool down

6. Classic 5k

A 5k run is an accomplishment any novice or intermediate athlete can be proud of. In this workout, you’ll run for 5 kilometers without stopping, at your own pace.

1. Set your tread to a flat incline and walk at 3 km/h to warm up

2. Increase your speed slightly and run until your treadmill reads 5.0 km

3. Decrease the speed and walk at 3 km/h to cool down

Torch fat and lose weight with treadmill workouts at home

Ready to get started losing weight on the treadmill? You don’t need a gym membership and can do these workouts in the comfort of your own home with Ascend’s foldable treadmills, specifically designed for the home. Simply unfold the treadmill when you’re ready to work out, and fold it back down and tuck it away when not in use. It’s perfect for those in smaller apartments or even home offices, allowing you to walk while you work and continue to burn calories. 

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

With over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry, Justin has a rich background ranging from personal training in bustling gyms to practicing massage therapy in health centers, and eventually running his own practice. An avid advocate for self-improvement, he tirelessly pursues the latest research to broaden his knowledge of human physiology and the body's potential. When he isn't enriching his understanding or assisting clients, Justin can be found embracing the great outdoors through paddle boarding, yoga, and hiking, or immersing himself in a challenging workout. His passion transcends personal growth, as he's equally committed to inspiring others on their own journey of self-improvement.



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