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How to use the treadmill effectively to lose weight


Walking on a treadmill is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and increase the number of calories burned. It is an ideal vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise for healthy adults since it gets your heart pumping, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, read which cardio machine is best for weight loss- treadmill or elliptical trainer?

However, most people who hit the gym treat the treadmill with disdain, a machine that must be used for a minimum of 15 minutes or so until one can go on to do more serious stuff like weight training. The truth is that it’s one of the most effective cardio machines and if used properly will help you reach your fitness goals. Here are some tips to use the treadmill properly:

Be prepared

Before you hop into the treadmill it’s important that you are dressed appropriately. Wear a proper t-shirt and shorts/track pants. In short, get dressed ready for a sweaty experience. Also, make sure you’ve on a decent pair of running shoes with a good grip on the sole. Do not run barefoot on a treadmill. It’s also a good idea to keep a hand towel handy to wipe off the sweat, especially if you’re using a treadmill in a gym which other people use as well.

Get familiar with the controls

If it’s the first time you’re using the machine ask someone at the gym to show you how it works. Figure out the buttons which are used to increase and decrease speed and inclination. Also, figure out the screen indicators which show calories burnt, heart rate, speed, time, inclination and the emergency stop button. Here are 10 ways to get most out of a treadmill.

Find the pre-set programs

You should also see which pre-set programs (most new generation ones come loaded with them) are available on the machine because these will help you follow a controlled regime. There are different programs for interval training, controlled inclined climbing, etc. which will help you train and burn more calories. Here are some common pre-set programs which will help you improve:

  • Cardiovascular: It’s designed to change the speed so that your heart rate remains between 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is (220 – age) for men and (226 – age) for women.
  • Fat burning zone: It’s designed to change the speed so that your heart rate remains between 80-85% of your maximum heart rate.
  • Alpine Pass: This is a harder regime which increases the incline constantly and then declines it so that it mimics walking or running uphill and downhill.
  • Random Hill: This is a program which randomly changes the incline and speed to keep you on your toes.
  • Interval training: This program allows you to set a jogging speed and a sprint speed and then switch at the press of a button. It’s excellent if you want a program which allows you to switch between speeds quickly for interval training.
  • 5K run: This is a long-running program where the user has to complete 5 kilometers on the treadmill.
  • Fitness Test: This is a program which helps you keep track of your fitness levels by monitoring your heart rate. It should be taken every three months.

Always warm up

One of the most common mistakes people make while using the treadmill is that they start running at breakneck speed from the get go. What you need to do is begin gradually at a lower speed and give your body time to adjust to the motion. Not warming up can lead to cramps and other problems. When you begin you should start at a slow, moderate pace like 6 km/hr. This gives your body time to adjust and loosens up your muscles. Warm up for at least 3-5 minutes before you start heavy duty running. Here is why warming up before exercises is so important.

Do not hold the bars

Once you get used to the treadmill that is. Most beginners are advised to hold on to the bars of the treadmill either on the sides or in the front and they just don’t let go. Even holding on during incline runs/walks is a bad idea. In fact, if you’ve to hold on to stay on a treadmill then the chances are that you’re overdoing it and need to decrease the speed or incline. Holding on prevents you from finding your natural running/walking stance and posture and also burns lesser calories. Also, read 10 ways you can burn your calories with everyday activities.

Watch your step

One important aspect of running and not just on the treadmill is landing your foot properly. Most experts agree that runners should land midsole – neither on your toes nor on your heels. If you land on your toes, you’re likely to put too much pressure on your calves and also develop shin pain. Landing on your heel means you’re not putting everything into your forward momentum and putting unnecessary stress on your knees. It’s also vital to keep your toes pointed straight and avoid keeping them either in or out. Of course, this won’t happen the first time you start running and you’ll have to work on it consciously.

Use it for interval training

One of the major plusses of the treadmill is that it makes interval training much easier than the open road. For those not in the know, interval training or it’s more high-intensity variety called High-Intensity Interval Training or in short HIIT is an amazing cardio routine to lose weight fast and burn excess calories. Based on a study by Japanese professor Izumi Tabata, it involves periods of high intensity training followed by lower intensity. You can incorporate HIIT into your cardio regime on the treadmill to take it to the next level. Here’s an example of a sample plan:

  • Warm up for 3 minutes at 6 km/h
  • Switch the speed to 10km/h for 2 minutes and then bring it back to 6 km/h
  • Repeat this for at least 4 sets so that total exercise lasts 15 minutes
  • Walk on the treadmill at 6 km/h for a cool down period

Give it some incline

If you’ve ever run anywhere you’ll know that running uphill is always harder than running on level ground. This is why it’s important to use the incline feature of treadmills to reap the maximum benefits from the machine. Even a 1% incline (most machines 1-15) will help you burn more calories than walking on level ground.

Here’s a chart for an average user (65kg) walking at 6.5 k/h at different inclines:

Incline Calories Burnt per hour 0% incline or Level Ground 362 1% 391 5% 500 10% 660 15% (Max) 850

You can calculate your calories burn per hour by using this app. As we can see, even a slight incline increases your calories burnt tremendously and it would be a good idea to use this feature effectively to get the most out of your exercise time.

Keep on pushing yourself

And the last and most important tip when it comes to using the treadmill is to not to let yourself get comfortable. If you’re getting comfortable increase the speed or incline. Try and do longer runs. If you’re doing interval training, try and increase the high-intensity time. This stops your body from getting used to the exercise and hitting a plateau.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re on the machine and you’ll realise what a powerful tool it is for weight loss and general fitness levels. Here is a 8-minute cardio routine you can do at home without a treadmill.

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