How Fast Should I Run On A Treadmill? (Explained)
By Simon Gould
Running on a treadmill is a great way of getting healthy and losing weight. It's a good cardio exercise that burns a lot of calories. One big question though is how fast you should run. This will depend on your age, weight and fitness level. Here I'll go through what speed I recommend for running, jogging and walking on a treadmill.
Recommended treadmill running speed
Running is 6 mph (9.6 km/h) and up. You'll burn 150 calories every 10 minutes at this speed. The great thing about a treadmill is it displays your speed on the console, unlike outside. This way you can specify the speed to one you can manage. What beginners make the mistake of doing is running too fast. If you do this, you'll become tired very quickly and you won't be able to run for very long.
Running too fast as though you're racing every time is not good training. This will cause injuries, even on a treadmill. Take it easy and pace yourself as you should be running regularly, and you don't want to overdo it. If you're very new to treadmill running you may want to consider a jogging speed. Running can be hard if you're not used to it.
Aim to run for 75 to 150 minutes per week. This is what the World Health Organization recommends for vigorous activity which is what running on a treadmill is. It may take you time to build up to running for that amount of time. This is when a couch to 5k treadmill plan is so useful. It's a walk and run plan that will have you running for 30 minutes non stop in 9 weeks.
Running is going to make you breath heavily and you get used to that sensation. However, If you feel out of breath after a few minutes, then you're going too fast. Try jogging speed if this is you. While how fast you're going is important, time spent exercising is even more so. Running for 20 minutes is far better for you than going fast for 5 minutes and stopping. So concentrate on the time as well as the speed.
Recommended treadmill jogging speed
Jogging is between 4 mph and 6 mph (6.4 km/h and 9.6 km/h). This is the speed most beginners should go on a treadmill. It's the sort of speed you can maintain for longer distances when your fitness improves. It gets your heart rate into the optimum zone which is when you're getting the most benefit from the time you spend exercising.
Jogging is also the speed I recommend if you're older. We get slower as we age, there's a reason footballers and soccer players retire in their mid 30's. Their speed and endurance starts to go. If you're a senior, you may need to brisk walk on a treadmill incline to gain some level of fitness before you start jogging or running.
I also recommend jogging speed if you're overweight. You probably won't be able to run for very long at speed anyway, but also your joints need extra care from the impact on the treadmill deck. Even though it's cushioned and easier compared to outside, injuries can still occur. You can always get quicker once the weight goes off and your fitness improves.
Recommended treadmill walking speed
Walking is 4 mph (6.4 km/h) and slower. People tend to walk naturally at 3.1 mph as per Wikipedia. However, this number goes down when after we reach 60 years. How fast you walk is down to all kinds of factors like height, age, stride length and more. When walking on a treadmill, you get the most benefits by brisk walking.
Brisk walking is defined as moderate physical activity by the World Heath Organization. They recommend we do 150 to 300 minutes per week. If you're already running 75 to 150 minutes per week, then you don't need to do any brisk walking. If you're very overweight, old or have another physical disadvantage, this is what you should be starting with.
How fast you should go
If you're a beginner then despite everything I've said above about speed, how fast you should go depends on how you feel while running. A great way to tell is using your heart rate, but for this you need a heart rate monitor. The pulse hand sensors on treadmills are not accurate. So we'll go by how you're breathing instead, which is a good indicator as well.
If you can speak a sentence while exercising when you're running/jogging then you can stay at that pace. If you can only say a word or two before breathing again or you're out of breath, then you're going too fast. If you're exhausted after running only 5 minutes, you're also going too fast. The idea is to improve your health, not win the next race.
Your speed can change as you get used to exercise. You will soon be breathing easier after a few weeks. Still use that speed button carefully as you risk over training and injuring yourself if you increase the intensity too quickly. Remember after all this speed talk, to enjoy your exercise routines otherwise you'll stop doing it.
I'm 44 and male. I used to able to run around 6.2 mph for over an hour in my 20's and 30's. I stopped running for a while and started again recently. I was shocked that I couldn't keep up the pace I was used to. I wanted to lose weight and get fit and healthy like I have been, I found that running speed hard to maintain, so I jog at 5.2 mph now.
So use the above speeds as a guide to how fast you should go. As long as you're actually physically running, that's the main thing. Build up to running if you need to and concentrate on your breathing. Use good posture on your treadmill by looking forward and running naturally and don't hold onto the handrails.
So run at 6 mph if you can, but it doesn't matter if you can't. Jogging is perfectly fine and even brisk walking will help you lose weight and give you many other health benefits.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here's my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*