Benefits Of A Treadmill Incline

Man running on a treadmill incline


By Simon Gould

One of the great things about treadmill are it’s inclines. No other fitness equipment has such versatility, they can not simulate hills like a treadmill can. They can increase resistance but only a treadmill can tilt the actual running surface so you’re running up a hill. The incline can be set very steeply for a tough uphill climb or low for a small rise. This feature gives many benefits:

1. Inclines help you lose weight

The incline can help you burn calories quicker than walking/running on a flat treadmill. The fact that it’s harder means it takes more energy to go the same speed. You often see people using the treadmill in gyms for this purpose. Power walking is especially beneficial for weight loss if done on an incline.

There are many workouts that use the incline to get you losing weight as a benefit. They can be used whether you’re walking or running. Even if you’re a beginner you can get some value out of treadmill hill workouts. The following are 2 workouts that you can try which are designed for weight loss, one is for walking and the other running:

2. Simulate exercising outside

The incline can be used to simulate the wind resistance you would normally get outside. A recent scientific study has shown that running outside is the same as running on a treadmill with the incline at 1%. This is a benefit to those who normally do their running outside so they can train seamlessly from outdoors to indoors.

Maybe it’s dark outside or the weather is bad so running on a treadmill is the best alternative. If you do some speed workouts on a treadmill then you may want those to replicate the outdoors. There are also many advantages to running on a treadmill that can’t be replicated outside. Professional runners will often use a treadmill this way so the incline can benefit many different people.

3. Strengthen and shapen legs and butt

As well as losing weight on the legs and butt the incline has the power to give you a toned lower body. When you use the incline and exercise into the anaerobic zone. This is at 80% and above your maximum heart rate your legs will strengthen and you’ll get a pleasing shape. This also happens to the butt, this benefit starts immediately and get’s better as the weeks go on.

You don’t need to do this every time you get on a treadmill but once a week as part of your normal exercise routine and you will see the results. Just set the incline to very high like 8% or so and exercise on that for around a minute or two or until you can’t go any further. Then reduce the incline so you can recover and when you have up the incline again. This type of training is called interval and is practised by many runners of all levels.

4. Simulate races

We don’t mean the running outside part but if you know a race you’re entering has a 1 mile uphill section, you can replicate it and it’s steepness on a treadmill. This is useful if you can’t practise on the route itself. You can run race pace and set the incline to whatever you need. You could even set the incline a little higher than the hill you’ve got to navigate so you get better practise.

There are some treadmills that can simulate declines but they are quite expensive. That is something you can’t really replicate on a treadmill. The incline is a good tool to use in your exercise armory. Even those who normally just build muscle can use the treadmill for warm up and cool down cardio and toning of the lower body.

5. Conditions the body for walking uphill outside

The glutes and hamstrings get more of a workout when you walk or run uphill. You’ll find as these muscles get stronger, the exercise will become easier. Since walking uphill on a treadmill incline uses the same muscles as walking uphill outside, your body will be conditioned to it. We all know how hard it can feel, especially as we get older, so training is a good thing.

Strengthening the glutes and the hamstrings helps you maintain balance and prevents falls. Varying your workouts by using the incline is beneficial for your motivation and keeps you challenged. A steep incline is hard and gets the heart beating faster. This is when it becomes most effective for you. You need to increase your rate of exertion to get the benefits.

Problems with using a treadmill incline

Running on an incline for a long period is not recommended, especially a steep incline. You don’t have hills in nature that take 30 minutes of running to climb. And if you find one, I don’t recommend using it. It puts excessive stress on your joints and stretches your calf muscles. Shin splints can occur from long or high intensity exercise using the incline.

There should be a slight incline of 1% to replicate the conditions of running outside. But a treadmill can never fully mimic running outside. The belt moves beneath you, and this is very apparent as your stride lengthens on an incline. But if we want to do the sort of exercise you like doing outside, then a treadmill is your only option.

Using the incline effectively

Don’t use the handrails when using the incline, even if you want to. Use the handrails for safety only. It can be tempting when you’re walking up a steep incline to lose weight. But you’ll burn more calories if you leave the handrails alone. Think about your posture and form when walking or running outside, and apply it to the treadmill.

Unless you’re walking, don’t do your whole workout on a high incline. Wear good running shoes, even if you’re walking. Vary the incline during your workout if you feel it’s to high or low. If you’re starting to feel any tightness or pain in your joints or muscles and it’s mild. Consider giving the incline a rest for a week or two.

Final thoughts

The incline on a treadmill allows you to do so much. It gives you a lot of variety in your exercise routines. You can even walk and expend a lot of energy by using the incline. It turns your walk into an aerobic workout which is great for your health and fitness. It means your workout is moderate exercise which the World Health Organization says gives you great health benefits.

When I’ve used my treadmill I’ve taken advantage of the incline. Some workout programs and speed routines use the incline and it’s benefits. Although the incline is unique, it’s advisable not to use it too much. Running on an incline for too long can cause injuries and is not natural. There are no permanent hills in nature, but sensible use of this feature can really help.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

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