Cardio is a key piece of the puzzle when you're trying to lose weight, and you have lots of options to choose from. One classic, popular choice is the treadmill: easy to use and accessible if you have a gym membership or a machine in the basement. But although it's easy to just hop on and run, you want to be strategic if you're looking to drop pounds.
The treadmill "can be an extremely effective tool for building aerobic capacity, burning calories, and developing your fitness level," said Lee Wratislaw, NASM, CPT, a GOLD's AMP trainer for Gold's Gym. So what kinds of treadmill workouts should you do, and just how long do you have to spend on it per session to see results?
How Long Should I Work Out on the Treadmill to Lose Weight?
"HIIT training sessions, comprised of shorter bursts at higher speeds followed by periods of active recovery or complete rest, are perfect ways to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time," Lee told POPSUGAR. This has to do with EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, a high-metabolism state your body enters after intense exercise, in which the increased amount of oxygen requires increased energy and calorie burn. Though EPOC won't last for hours (and, contrary to popular belief, doesn't burn hundreds of calories), it's still an added benefit of choosing a HIIT workout when you're on the treadmill. For these types of workouts, you'll want to keep it short: Lee recommended 20 minutes.
Steady-state treadmill workouts can last a little longer. Try 30 minutes for a moderate-intensity workout like light jogging, or 40 minutes for low-intensity walking. "Steady-state training is best for building aerobic capacity, or the body's ability to efficiently use oxygen for exercise," Lee said. You'll increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, he explained, which will help you run or walk farther and faster in time, ultimately helping you lose weight.
These recommendations are a good starting place, but you should always base the time and speed of your treadmill workout on your current fitness level. If you're a beginner, Lee recommended focusing just on steady-state workouts at first. Start at a speed you can comfortably maintain for at least 20 minutes while maintaining your form, so you feel challenged but not like you're about to lose your balance or fall off the machine, he suggested. Once you get used to the machine and can speed up a bit, you can start challenging yourself with HIIT workouts.
Weight-Loss Treadmill Workout Plan
For the most effective weight-loss plan, Lee said, combine treadmill cardio workouts with strength training. Here's what a sample five-day week of workouts could look like:
- Monday: 20-minute treadmill HIIT session (you can shorten this 30-minute treadmill workout)
- Tuesday: 45-minute full-body strength workout
- Wednesday: 30-minute moderate-intensity steady-state running session
- Thursday: dumbbell resistance workout
- Friday: 40-minute walking session
Don't forget to incorporate chiller movement on your rest days (like this 30-minute yoga flow) and healthy eating (we recommend this two-week clean eating plan) to see the best weight-loss results.