Treadmills are tilting skyward. Nowadays, modest inclines of 10% have become standard on treadmills in every price category – but some manufacturers like Bowflex have stepped up the competition. Treadmills and incline trainers with maximum tilts of 15, 30 and even 40% are now seen on showroom floors.
Is steep incline training practical for anyone besides Spiderman? Here we look at five benefits of incline training for you, the everyday superhero.
Burn More Calories
Incline training most recently reached American mass consciousness via TV’s The Biggest Loser. The personal trainer Jillian Michaels showed contestants and an audience of millions how incline training dramatically revs up calorie burn.
Here’s an example of incline training and calorie burn from medical studies: A 160-pound person might normally burn 150 calories during a regular 30-minute treadmill walk at 4.0 mph. Just changing the treadmill incline to 5% would boost calories burn to about 250 calories. A 10% tilt would help burn 350 calories in just half an hour.
Reduce Strain on Your Knees
A second benefit of incline training clearly takes advantage of gravity. If you’re carrying extra pounds, you might feel stress in your knees during exercise. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finds that walking at just a 3-degree incline reduces shock to legs by about 25%.
Help Your Heart
Incline training can help increase your heart rate without requiring your whole body to speed up. A scientific study at A.T. Still University found that 30-year-olds walking at 3 mph on a 12% incline raised their heart rates just as if they’d been running at 6 mph on a non-inclined surface. With incline training you can get the same cardiovascular benefits of running while putting less strain on your joints.
Note: Participants in the study had healthy hearts. You should consult a physician before adding incline training to your fitness regimen.
Our bodies are amazing. Curiously, they burn calories not only more quickly but differently when we do incline training. Studies show that running on a flat surface first dips into your stock of carbohydrates. In contrast, walking on a steep incline trainer primes your body to burn fat. Want specific numbers? If you exercise at a 17% incline – really approaching Spidey style — you’ll burn about 70% more fat than if you worked out at a 0% incline.
Some popular treadmills with inclines of 17% or more are in the NordicTrack Incline Trainer series. The x9i, a 2012 model, has a 40% maximum incline and a 6% decline. You could also try a Bowflex Treadclimber, which aren’t quite treadmills but merit checking out. These compact machines take up less space than most treadmills but also let you work out at a 40% incline.
Muscle development is a fifth benefit of incline workouts. When you walk without an incline, only about 20% of the muscle tissue in your legs is recruited. Incline training recruits more muscles throughout the lower body from the calves to the glutes. You’ll get the best strength training benefit if you use a treadmill at a 15% incline or greater.
Of course, more muscle can translate to faster running times. A study in Sweden found that marathoners shaved about six minutes off their marathon times thanks to twelve weeks of hill running.
The next time you work out, try increasing the treadmill’s tilt instead of increasing speed. Curious on what the best incliners are? If so, check out our top incline trainer picks to see what we recommend! We think you’ll love the results!