Benefits of Using Incline on a Treadmill

Using a treadmill without incline makes walking or running even easier than running outside on a level surface. That’s because there is no wind resistance and a motorized treadmill assists with movement versus your own body pushing and pulling itself. To increase the challenge level of any treadmill workout, consider incline. Using incline is a wonderful way to increase calorie burn and build muscle during each treadmill workout. Most treadmills have incline settings anywhere from .5% to 15% and 1% is considered to be the same resistance level as an outdoor surface without incline.

The #1 Benefit of Using Incline on a Treadmill

Weight Loss

Anyone who plans to use a treadmill for weight loss should make sure that the model they buy is equipped with an incline motor. The incline motor is separate from the belt motor and often carries its own warranty. It helps the treadmill to move between high and low inclines with ease. Some treadmills even come with programs that change the incline randomly so that the exerciser’s body never gets used to the incline of their workout. If the user is changing the incline themselves, it is important to make changes slowly (such as .5% to 1% every two minutes).

Workout intensity is a major key to weight loss. In general, trainees should keep their heart rate between 70% and 85% of their maximum heart rate for the biggest calorie burning effect. Exercising at 90% or higher 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 track this information.

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 five days a week. Any exercise is better than none, but most people don’t get the exercise they need. People with treadmills in their home are more likely to workout because of the convenience.

Calories Burned

The amount of calories burned by any exerciser depends on several factors:

  • 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 an incline is the same 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 workout 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 like 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, so 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 the intensity of a workout 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. Incline training offers a safe and satisfying way to hit your fitness goals faster and more efficiently.

Treadmill Incline FAQs

Which treadmill has the best incline features?

Our experts’ top choice for incline trainers is the NordicTrack Commercial X11i. The NordicTrack Incline Treadmill line boasts a grade incline of up to 40%, mimicking climbing the highest of hills. You can check our roundup of the Best Incline Trainers to find the best treadmill for you.

Is walking on an incline good for weight loss?

Walking or running on an incline is a great way to increase the intensity of your workout, which can help you lose weight. When walking or running on an incline, your body is working harder and burning more calories than if you were doing the same on a flat surface. Incline training provides a more efficient way of reaching your fitness goals.

What is a good incline setting on a treadmill?

Incline settings for optimal results will vary depending on your fitness level and goals. A good place to start is 2% - 3% incline and gradually increase the incline as necessary. Always listen to your body!


  • headache chartApril 23, 2019 at 7:19 am
    I dugg some of you post as I cogitated they were invaluable extremely helpful.
    • Amanda B.April 24, 2019 at 8:16 am
      Thank you Monika!
    • Dean SayreAugust 28, 2020 at 8:41 pmfrom NV
      I'm doing a 30 minute incline work out 5 days a week starting at 12 at intervals of 2 minutes going down to 11, 10, 9 etc and ending at 4 incline sustained for last 12 minutes at speed of 4mph. 1.8 miles is this good been doing for 2 weeks and have lost 6lbs
  • Mark isaacsAugust 6, 2019 at 1:37 amfrom Yeovil England
    Thanks for the information it’s been incredible helpful
    • Amanda BAugust 7, 2019 at 9:57 am
      Hi Mark, we are glad that you found this helpful! Thank you for the feedback.
  • Karen UlmerAugust 27, 2019 at 11:52 pmfrom CA
    If I'm walking 50 min at a 3.4 mph pace,could I cut down the time if I use a 2% incline? I would like to burn the same amount of calories. I don't think I could keep up an incline and walk 50 min unless I cut the mph speed. I'm 66 years old if that implies.
    • Amanda BSeptember 9, 2019 at 4:48 pm
      Hi Karen, the higher the incline, the more your body has to work which then burns more calories. You can use a treadmill calculator to see how long you'd have to walk on an incline to burn the same amount of calories you do now. You can try this one <a href="" rel="nofollow">here</a>. Make sure to keep us updated on your fitness journey!
  • SGOctober 24, 2019 at 10:11 amfrom Qatar
    Hello, Hope your good! Does incline on the treadmill pushes legs muscles strength ( does it make the legs bigger with more muscles) or it only burns calories and helps body weight loss?
    • Amanda BNovember 12, 2019 at 3:46 pm
      HI SG, running or walking using an incline certainly helps build leg muscle and strength. When walking / running on an incline, the calves, glutes, and hamstrings are all engaged and activated helping you get stronger. It is recommended that you use a treadmill at a 15% incline or greater for the most benefit.
  • chris brownNovember 13, 2019 at 7:58 pmfrom ny
    15%? That is the highest on most machines
    • Amanda BDecember 4, 2019 at 4:02 pm
      Hi Chris, machines can really vary with their incline settings. A lot of machines do max out at 15% incline but there are also plenty of treadmills that are specific to incline training and could go up to a 40% incline.
  • RyszardFebruary 12, 2020 at 7:46 pmfrom SoCal
    I was wondering exactly how does an inclined surface actually increase calorie burn? Since by definition, 'work' or calorie burn is equal to the force required to displace an object a specific distance. If I climb a 20 foot ladder, the work is my weight x 20 feet. If when using a treadmill you step in the exact same location (elevation) on the treadmill each time, you are never increasing the height (or elevation) of your body and thus having a sum displacement of zero. This equals 0 work due to whatever % incline the treadmill is set at. Therefore, there must be some other factor that is attributed to the claimed increased calorie burn such as angulation of the ankle and subsequent effect on leg muscle efficiency.
    • Amanda BFebruary 18, 2020 at 4:39 pm
      Hi Rick, In a sense, you sort of answer your own question with your added commentary. With an incline set on your treadmill (even a few degrees), you are in effect having to lift your bodyweight more as you step forward into the incline, and thus you are lifting your bodyweight more than you would on a flat and level running surface. A ladder is an extreme example, but the more you increase the incline, the more lift your step provides, and thus the more work or calorie burn occurs. Also, think about walking on a flat road versus up a hill. More work, right? Same theory, more stationary.
    • ZantetsuNovember 14, 2020 at 3:22 pmfrom CA
      Ryszard, when you are using a treadmill on a flat surface, the treadmill is continually pushing you backwards and you are continually pushing yourself forwards (by walking or running). If you weren't, then you'd be pushed off of the back of the treadmill. With a treadmill at an incline, you are being pushed both back and down. So you have to walk or run forwards and up to compensate. That is the extra work you are doing. If the treadmill pushes you down 1 inch with every step, then every step you take must push yourself up 1 inch in elevation to return to your starting spot. As an analogy, if we start at the top of a hill and I put you in my car and drive you to the bottom, then you walk back up to the top, you certainly did extra work to get yourself back up there. A treadmill on an incline is like that, except that it's constantly picking you up at the top of the "hill" (i.e. at the starting point, where your steps land) and taking you down to the bottom of the "hill" (the 1 inch drop from the front to the back of the treadmill) where then have to walk your way back to the top (via a single step).
  • Jasim KhanFebruary 17, 2020 at 9:14 am
    I am walking 200 minutes daily 3 days a week and 100 minutes daily 3 days a week withe 15% incline and 3 mph. total 900 minutes weekly. I am 80 years old. is this good for health. I feel very strong
    • Amanda BFebruary 18, 2020 at 4:03 pm
      Hi Jasim, this is great! Definitely consult with your physician to ensure you are getting the right amount of exercise daily. Keep up the great work!
  • YashFebruary 29, 2020 at 5:33 am
    I don't understand it. I am 15 year student . First time I have gone on treadmill. Speed and incline options are there but I don't understand that what is incline why it is used
    • Amanda BMarch 13, 2020 at 12:15 pm
      Hi Yash, using the incline on your treadmill means that the running surface will be on a slope (kind of like running on a hill), which will increase the intensity of your workout. Different treadmills have different incline options so you can adjust the slope according to how intense you want your workout to be.
  • Ilias MJuly 5, 2020 at 2:04 amfrom Adelaide
    I been going pre COVID19 to the gym and did notice my endurance improve reaching 6km at speed of 5.5 with no incline After 3 months I’m back at the gym. My question over time what exactly does treadmill do to improve your heart and body health
  • JesslynJuly 26, 2020 at 4:29 am
    How to know if my treadmill have incline or not
    • Amanda BAugust 12, 2020 at 11:06 am
      Hi Jesslyn, the incline feature is specified on the website or manual for the treadmill. We also list the incline/decline capabilities of each treadmill in our reviews.
  • Dean SayreAugust 28, 2020 at 8:41 pmfrom NV
    I'm doing a 30 minute incline work out 5 days a week starting at 12 at intervals of 2 minutes going down to 11, 10, 9 etc and ending at 4 incline sustained for last 12 minutes at speed of 4mph. 1.8 miles is this good been doing for 2 weeks and have lost 6lbs
  • Arnulfo PetzSeptember 1, 2020 at 7:50 pm
    I like this web site because so much utile material on here : D.

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