Using a treadmill with no incline makes walking or running even easier than running outside on a level surface. This is because there is no wind resistance and a motorized treadmill assists with movement versus your own body pushing and pulling itself. Using incline is a great way to increase calorie burning and muscle building during each workout on the treadmill. Most treadmills have incline settings anywhere from .5% to 15% and 1% is considered to be the same resistance level as an outdoor surface with no incline.

Weight Loss

Anyone who plans to use a treadmill for weight loss should make sure that the model they buy is equipped with a treadmill incline motor that is separate from the belt motor and often carries its own warranty. The incline motor helps the treadmill to move between high and low inclines easily. Some treadmills even come with programs that change the incline randomly so that the exerciser’s body doesn’t get used to the incline of their workout. If the exerciser is changing the incline themselves, it is important to make changes slowly, such as .5% to 1% every two minutes. Walking or running on a treadmill that is set to an incline of 2% or more will help the exerciser burn calories much faster than if they had set the machine to an incline of 1% or less.

Intensity is a major key to weight loss, and people should keep their heart rate between 70% and 85% of their maximum heart rate for the biggest calorie burning effect. Exercising at 90% or more of the maximum heart rate can cause health problems such as heart attack and stroke. Exercising at a lower intensity doesn’t burn as many calories, even if the action is performed for a long period of time. Keeping track of heart rates during workouts is very important, and many treadmills have functions that track this information for the exerciser.

Consistency is another key to weight loss. According to research compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need a minimum of half an hour of physical activity (at a moderate pace) five days a week. Any exercise is better than none, but most people don’t get as much exercise as they need. People who have treadmills in their home are more likely to workout because it is convenient for them.

Calories Burned

The amount of calories burned by each person depends on several factors, including:

  • Weight — Heavier people naturally burn more calories than lighter people because they have more weight to move around.
  • Intensity — The intensity of a workout can be measured using the exerciser’s heart rate. More calories are burned because the lungs and heart are working harder.
  • Incline — Walking or running on a incline is the same motion as running or walking uphill, which makes the body work harder and burns more calories than a slower pace.
  • Hand Rails — Holding onto the treadmill’s hand rails translates to less calories burned overall because the machine is bearing some of the weight during exercise and moving the upper body burns more calories.

Reduced Injury Risk

Using a treadmill to work out instead of running or walking outside actually reduces the risk of injury to the knees and hips because increasing the treadmill’s incline increases the intensity level without increasing stress on the body’s joints. It also provides a stretch to the Achilles tendons and calves, which can benefit people with foot problems such as plantar fasciitis. Walking at an incline can exacerbate lower back pain, so people who are feeling pain in this area should reduce the incline and build up their workout very slowly as the back muscles strengthen.

According to a study reported in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, increasing treadmill incline by 3% reduces the impact that the legs must absorb by about 24%. Running on a treadmill is already easier on the body’s joints than running outdoors, and a slight incline further reduces this stress on the body’s joints while increasing the intensity of the workout.

Incline Use

Using the incline feature on the treadmill is a great way to increase a workout’s intensity without increasing the time or speed of the workout or putting additional stress on the joints. The number of calories burned by each person depends on their weight and other body specifics, but walking or running at an incline of 2% or more burns more calories than running or walking outdoors on a level surface.