You’re most probably familiar with the scene of people lining up in public gyms to use the treadmill. It’s no wonder, though, considering the many benefits of this exercise equipment. It’s also a top choice for home gym machines.
For many, the treadmill is just a good alternative when running outdoors is out of the question due to inclement weather or lack of time. However, the benefits of treadmill walking or running go beyond that. As a cardio exercise, it helps burn calories, improve balance, and work different muscle groups.
But how effective is it in burning fat? And how to use it for weight loss? That’s what we’re going to answer in this post, along with all your questions about training durations, expected results, factors that influence these results, and workouts you can do on the treadmill. So, let’s get started!
Does Running or Walking on a Treadmill Burn Fat?
A treadmill workout can help you turn your body into a calorie furnace and consequently shed fat and lose weight at a fast rate. But, of course, the number of calories you burn when exercising on the treadmill depends on your current weight, fitness level, and the speed by which you work out.
To give you some numbers, Harvard Health Publishing reported the following results for a 150-pound person:
- Brisk walking at 3.5 mph: 258 calories/hour
- Climbing at 4.5 mph: 300 calories/hour
- Jogging at 5 mph: 580 calories/hour
- Running at 6 mph: 680 calories/ hour
- Running at 7.5 mph: 750 calories/hour
- Running at 9 mph: 900 calories/hour
- Running at 12 mph: 1,200 calories/hour
Healthy weight loss depends on a process called “fat oxidation,” which refers to the body’s ability to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel.
According to peer-reviewed studies by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, treadmill training results in the highest fat oxidation rates compared to elliptical and rowing machine exercises. That’s aside from the fact that it burns more calories than any other cardio equipment.
However, losing weight on a treadmill isn’t a linear process. Just because you’re burning this amount of calories doesn’t mean you’re depriving your fat cells and forcing them to release the fat instead of holding on to it.
What actually happens is that during the first six weeks of treadmill training, your body becomes flooded with adrenaline, which forces the fat out of your cells to be broken down. As a result, the weight loss process will be swift in the first month and a half. Then, your body will get used to this activity level and lower your fat-burning rate.
That’s why many people face a plateau in their weight loss after nearly two months of their treadmill routine. The solution to that would be to include interval training, which we’ll discuss later in this post.
How Much Weight Can You Lose on a Treadmill in a Week?
In general, you can lose 1-2 pounds per week by working out on a treadmill. However, that depends on your starting weight, workout intensity, your food intake, and whether you alter the speed and incline in your treadmill workout session.
To lose one pound of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories. If you couple your treadmill workouts with a calorie-deficit diet, you’ll be able to lose double this number in a week.
For example, if you lower your daily calorie intake by 500 calories and jog on the treadmill at 5 mph on a daily basis, you’ll be able to shed around 5,500 calories per week. This is equal to losing 1.5 pounds per week.
How Long Should You Be on a Treadmill to Lose Weight?
The duration you should spend on the treadmill depends on whether you’re doing HIIT workouts or steady-state exercises. The first is composed of short segments of high-intensity training mixed with low-intensity periods. Because it’s a vigorous exercise type, it usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete.
On the other hand, a steady-state workout requires you to go longer on the treadmill with the same intensity. So a low-intensity workout like walking should be around 40-60 minutes. And similarly, a moderate-intensity one like jogging should take from 30 to 40 minutes.
Steady-state exercises are used to build aerobic capacity and increase cardio fitness, while a HIIT routine is preferred to overcome the plateau and enhance weight loss. So the time and speed of your treadmill workout depend on your goals and where you are in your fitness journey.
For example, if you’re a beginner, you should focus more on steady-state exercises to build stamina and improve your form. As you advance, you can challenge yourself with HIIT exercises along with strength training.
Can Treadmills Burn Belly Fat?
There is no such thing as targeting a body area by a specific exercise – that includes visceral fat!
Still, the treadmill can help you burn belly fat by burning calories and reducing fat from all over your body. And since the treadmill burns more calories than any other equipment, it’s actually the most effective on belly fat.
A study by the Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation backs this information. It observed the effect of moderate-intensity treadmill walking on women. And after a 12-weeks period, they found that all women participating in the study showed a significant reduction in belly fat.
Tips to Burn Fat Effectively on a Treadmill
So the treadmill spurs your body to burn calories and therefore shed body fat, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy.
Fat isn’t your body’s only reservoir of energy; it takes its fuel from sugar first. And just because you’re doing a whistle-stop run doesn’t mean your body is utilizing fat. It could be utilizing muscles as they’re faster to burn than fats. So how can you make sure your body’s calorie burn is the result of burning body fat? Let’s see.
Consume Fewer Carbs Before Running
We’re pretty sure you know that without a calorie-deficit diet, it’ll be hard to drop body fat, even if you exercise strenuously 7 days a week. But did you know that the type of food you eat affects your fat burn, especially the food you eat before exercising?
Although many fitness trainers recommend eating carb-rich food before working out as it improves performance, you might want to stir away from this advice if your goal is to lose weight.
When you run with lots of carbs in your system, your body relies on its glycogen reserve instead of its fat reserve to produce energy. This means you’d be burning the meal you just ate before the workout, and your fat mass won’t budge.
A more effective approach would be to ingest fewer carbs and more protein before running to encourage your body to tap into its fat stores and burn a higher percentage of fat while preserving its muscle mass.
Stay in Your Fat-Burning Zone
Your body’s fat-burning rate becomes at its maximum when you’re at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. That’s where you burn the most calories, so you want to stay in that zone while exercising if you’re aiming for weight loss.
You can determine your fat-burning zone by determining your max heart rate and then multiplying it by 70%. To get your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For instance, if you’re 40 years old, it’d be 180 bpm, and consequently, your fat-burning zone would be at a heart rate of 126 bpm.
Try High-Intensity Interval Training
Finally, a HIIT routine could be all you need to amp up your fat burn. Doing short intervals of high-intensity exercises won’t only shift your body to burning fat as its primary fuel, but it’ll also keep your body in an after-burn state, in which it’ll keep burning calories even after you finish the workout.
What Are the Best Treadmill Workouts for Weight Loss?
Now that you’re familiar with the strategies that speed up your calorie burn and fat loss, let’s see how you can apply them to ramp up your treadmill game and achieve your weight loss goals.
1. HIIT + Steady-State + Strength Training
In this plan, you alternate between HIIT sessions and strength training exercises throughout the week. Here’s how you should do it:
- Day 1: Do a 20-minute HIIT workout by alternating between 2 minutes of speed running and a minute of light walking.
- Day 2: Perform strength training exercises for 45 minutes.
- Day 3: Rest.
- Day 4: Do a steady-state moderate walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
- Day 5: Perform resistance workouts for 45 minutes.
- Day 6: Walk at a moderate pace for 40 minutes.
- Day 7: Rest.
2. Incline Walk
For this workout, warm up by walking for 5 minutes. Then, raise the incline to the highest degree, and start walking at a speed of 4 mph. Continue at this pace for 30 minutes, and repeat the workout 5 days a week.
Emma James, 29 years old professional fitness trainer with Bachelor’s degree in Physical Fitness Technician from Boston University.