Treadmills the most popular cardio machine for staying in shape and burning calories in a short amount of time. But how long do you need to use it to see results?
Using a treadmill for 30 minutes can burn an average of 288 calories (weight and speed dependent). After 3-4 weeks of using a treadmill for 30 minutes at a time, you should begin to see results. Others will be able to notice these results after 6-8 weeks.
How many calories you burn every 30 minutes on a treadmill and how long it takes to see results depends on a lot of different factors. We’ll go into those factors a bit more below.
- 1 How Do Treadmills Burn Calories?
- 2 What Areas of The Body Do Treadmills Target?
- 3 How Often Should You Use A Treadmill?
- 4 What Can You Do To Make Your Treadmill Time More Effective?
- 5 Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories
How Do Treadmills Burn Calories?
The more you weigh the more calories you will burn during an exercise. There are two important factors in weight: Muscle mass and body fat. The greater your muscle mass, the quicker you will burn calories. This is because more muscle can burn more calories just like a bigger engine burns more fuel in a car. However, if you are heavier because of higher body fat, you’ll also burn more calories because you’re moving more weight around.
No matter your size, the longer your workout is and the higher intensity, the more calories you will burn. You can increase the intensity of your treadmill work out by running at a higher speed, increasing the incline, and using High Intensity Interval Trainer (HIIT)
However, not everyone is in a position to do very high intensity workout and use HIIT. In that case you can get the same weight loss results as a high-intensity workout by doing a low-intensity workout for a longer amount of time. As long as you are continuously moving, you will burn calories. In that way, you can keep going at any speed with any resistance level that you want until you have burned the number of calories you desire. Slowly build up to higher intensity workouts by increasing the speed and/or incline a little bit every workout.
Treadmills often have a built in calorie counter. These aren’t super accurate but you can improve accuracy by putting your current weight into the treadmill. If you don’t put your weight into the treadmill, it’ll use a preset average which is probably not correct for you.
The question is if you can see results by using a treadmill for 30 minutes a day. You burn more calories in a certain amount of time if the average intensity in that time is higher. So if you run as fast as you can for 30 minutes on the treadmill, you’ll see more results than if you walk at a leisurely pace for the same 30 minutes.
A 155 lbs. person running at 5 MPH burns 288 calories per 300 minutes. That same person running at 6 MPH burns 360 calories per 30 minutes.https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities
What Areas of The Body Do Treadmills Target?
Treadmills use certain body parts more than others. However, that doesn’t mean you can use it to spot reduce fat in the used areas. A treadmill uses your hamstrings and glutes but that doesn’t mean your body will strip the fat of those body parts, fat loss doesn’t work that way. Burning calories will lower your overall body fat percentage but where that fat is removed depends on factors like: Genetics, age, gender, and hormone balance.
It’s better to think of running on a treadmill to burn calories and therefore lose overall body fat while improving cardiovascular health and strengthening your lower body muscles. Consistently running on your treadmill will start removing fat from part of your body.
Besides burning calories, treadmills are great at improving cardiovascular health. Running on a treadmill is very similar to running outside but there are some differences. However, from a cardiovascular perspective, they are very similar.
Aerobic exercise makes your heart and lungs work harder to get blood and oxygen to your muscles. This is the process that is strengthening your cardiovascular endurance while using a treadmill.
Regular cardiovascular exercise also has benefits for mental health, digestion, calorie partitioning and many more processes in your body.
Treadmills don’t use the upper body in a meaningful way. Sure, running is a full body workout and you move parts of your upper body but they don’t get activated to a large degree. Especially not if you compare it to lower body activation.
Treadmills mainly target the lower body. Good treadmills have the option to change incline settings to target different leg muscles, namely your glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
Running or walking on a flat treadmill will target the quadriceps more. The more you increase the incline, the more the focus pivots to the rear of the legs. So that means the higher the incline the more focus on glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Also, increasing the incline dramatically increases the amount of calories you burn because the intensity is much higher. Just like running outside on flat ground is much easier than running up a hill.
Unlike elliptical trainers, exercise bikes or rowing machines, running on a treadmill means your feet impact the belt continuously. This can cause your joints and spine to start aching and your recovery time to be longer. Getting a high quality treadmill with good damping in the belt will dramatically reduce the impact on every stride which means you recover quicker and can work out more often. In the long run (pun intended) this means you’ll see much better results with less injury risk.
With every stride, your body naturally contracts your abs and other core muscles to keep you balanced and to keep a straight posture. This will strengthen the core. The faster you run, the higher the core activation tends to be. If you’re untrained, you’ll get some core strengthening effects from running. However, if you’re more advanced, just running isn’t going to be enough if you want to strengthen the core.
Running doesn’t activate and train the complete core either. And since it’s necessary to have a strong core for high intensity exercise, it’s a good idea to do some separate core strengthening exercises besides running. Some simple bodyweight exercises can dramatically increase core strength in a few weeks if done regularly.
Are you looking for visible abs? Running on a treadmill still plays a big role. That’s because having visible abs requires the right combination of the ab muscles being big enough and having a low enough body fat percentage. A treadmill is a very useful tool to reduce body fat percentage. To really make your abs pop, it’s a good idea to do more ab exercises apart from running.
How Often Should You Use A Treadmill?
You can run on a treadmill every day if you want and you recover quick enough. Adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of medium intensity to vigorous exercise a week. Typically, people work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This way you allow the body time to rest and recharge.
Exercising at least 150 minutes a week is recommended for preventing weight gain and general health. If you are looking to increase weight loss, however, you should be striving for around 250 minutes of exercise a week (while maintaining a healthy diet, of course). In that case, it is recommended to work out 45 minutes to an hour for five days a week.
There is nothing wrong with using the treadmill more than five days a week, as long as you are not doing long high-intensity sessions each day. If you want to run every day without breaks, it’s better to do longer but low intensity workouts. However, rest days are always a good idea. Your body might not start complaining the first few weeks but if you keep up the schedule for a long period of time, you probably get some weird aches and pains that could have been prevented by taking time off.
Combining cardio exercise with resistance training will make your workouts even more effective. Varying your workouts makes them less repetitive and building some muscle raises your resting calorie expenditure which means you burn more calories while sleeping! Stronger and bigger muscles also make you look better and compound the physique improvements you get from fat loss.
What Can You Do To Make Your Treadmill Time More Effective?
Food is fuel. I’ve certainly used food as an emotional crutch at times but the biggest thing you can do for your health is improve the way you eat.
The key to increasing the results of your workouts, whether it’s running on a treadmill or other activity, is to eat balanced and nutritious meals. To get the most out of your physical activity, you have to be giving your body sufficient energy to perform. Some forms of energy are better than others.
Now, what is considered to be a balanced diet depends on what you are trying to accomplish. There will be a different amount of calories you should be consuming a day and a slightly different ratio of carbohydrates, fats, and protein (macronutrients).
Cook your own meals and try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. A good target to shoot for is to get 80% of your calories from whole foods. It’s very tough to eat 100% whole foods and shooting for 80% is more likely to give you enough leeway to be able to stick to it.
Typically, your ratio of macronutrients should be:
- 30–35% of your calories from protein
- 55–60% of your calories from carbs
- 15–20% of your calories from fat
To lose weight, you need to be taking in fewer calories than you are going to burn from exercising. If your primary type of exercise for losing weight is aerobic exercise and/or weightlifting, then your ratio should include slightly more carbohydrates in your diet.
A kilo of fat has 7700 calories. So by consuming 550 calories fewer per day than you use, you’ll burn through a kilo of fat every two weeks. Running on a treadmill helps increase the amount of calories you burn on a day. So after doing this for 4-6 weeks you’ll lose about 2-3 kilos (4.4 – 6.6 lbs.). For most people this won’t be their goal but it will be visible.
If your goal is to bulk up and gain muscle, you actually need to be switching between eating more calories and fewer calories. This is referred to as bulking and cutting. After identifying the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight, you will eat 15% more calories than that during your bulking phase. This is so you can build as much muscle as possible. Then you switch to your cutting phase and will eat 15% fewer calories than you need to maintain weight.
The purpose of the cutting phase is to lose as much fat as possible while keeping the muscle mass you built during the bulking phase. If fat loss is the main concern, start with reducing your calories. Since most people in the USA today are overweight, getting to a better BMI first is more important.
A note about protein: It is a myth that you need to consume significant amounts of protein to gain muscle. Strength training is how you will build muscle! Yes, your body needs protein to repair and grow the muscles but, if you consume more protein than your body needs in a day, it will be converted and stored if it exceeds your daily calorie needs. Thus, eating so much extra protein you go over your daily calorie goal, will actually go against your goal and reduce the efficiency of your workout. About 0.6 – 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is a good goal.
Strength Training Exercises
As you can read above, running on a treadmill mainly strengthens the muscles in the lower body. To strengthen other muscle groups or focus on some specific ones, you use strength training. Combining the calorie burning and cardiovascular benefits of running on a treadmill with strength training is very effective and will multiply the effect you would get if you’re only doing one of the two.
The best way to include strength training exercises in your treadmill workout is to do them after running. That’s if you want to focus on weight loss. If you want to focus on muscle building, it’s better to do the strength exercises first.
It’s best to do a full body strength workout that targets all body parts. If you don’t want to do all the body parts on one day, you can split them up as well. It’s best to hit all the body parts twice a week. Training your whole body creates a better overall physique and prevents major muscle imbalances. It also means you create more real world strength that’s useful in daily life.
Stretching Before And After
Before and after any workout it is a good idea to stretch. If you begin working out without warming your muscles, you are more likely to injure yourself during your exercise. Stretching is a light way to warm up your muscles and prepare them to be used.
Good pre-workout stretches include:
- The Pike Stretch– Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and reach down to put your hands in front of your toes. You’ll then slowly walk your hands forward while keeping them shoulder-width apart and keeping your legs straight. Essentially, you are walking yourself into the yoga stretch “downward dog.” Stay in that position for 30 seconds. This will stretch your hamstrings and calves.
- Trunk Rotations– Start lying on your back with your hips and knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your arms should lay straight at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades and flatten your neck to the floor while rotating your legs to the left. As you twist, your right shoulder blade and arm should remain flat on the floor. Hold that position for a few minutes and then slowly return to the starting position and rotate your legs to the right side. This will stretch your shoulders, legs, and core.
- Lunges– Lunges are an example of dynamic stretching, a way to stretch by constantly moving as opposed to holding a pose for a long amount of time. Since lunges target the leg muscles and back, doing a set or two of them before getting on the treadmill can help get the blood flowing through your legs and prepare them for endurance.
Good post-workout stretches include:
- Chest Stretch– Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Place your hands on the back of your head with your arms raised and elbows pointed to the sides. Bring your shoulder blades together as you press your elbows backward.
- Seated Glute Stretch– Start by sitting in a chair with one foot flat on the floor. Place your other leg so that its ankle is over the knee of the foot flat on the floor. Slowly bend forward while keeping your back straight until you feel a slight pull in your hips and glute muscles. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Cat-Cow Stretch- Start with your hands and knees on the floor, with your spine straight and relaxed. As you inhale, press your chest forward as if making your back into a bowl. As you exhale, relax your shoulders and round your spine upward, and press your hips forward as if making your back into a hill. Relax your shoulders and continue to go between these positions for a minute.
Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories
Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:
- Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and workouts, there is no better choice than the GymNext Flex. It’s super easy to use and set up with a phone app.
- Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
- Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.
To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.