Treadmill Workouts: How Long Should You Workout

Exercising on a treadmill

By Simon Gould

This is actually a very easy question to answer because all Governments around the English-speaking world and the World Health Organization recommend adults get the same amount. They all have guidelines that answer how many minutes you should do whether you’re walking or running. So I’ll take these recommendations and apply it to the treadmill.

The amount of recommended minutes are different depending on your activity level. These have been divided into 2. They are moderate and vigorous activity. Moderate covers all kinds of things you can do which are less demanding than vigorous activities. Moderate includes gardening or house cleaning. Vigorous is running, tennis or basketball.

Moderate activity – This is walking on a treadmill. The advice is to do 150 to 300 minutes per week. This equates to 30 minutes or more on 5 days of the week. You may want to do it every week day and have the weekend off. The average walking speed is 3.1 mph. To accomplish the amount in the guidelines you can use the incline or not.

Vigorous activity – This is jogging or running on a treadmill. It doesn’t need to be very fast at all, in fact, I would advise you to go slow and jog. Around 5 mph is the right speed. The amount of minutes recommended for vigorous activity like jogging is 75 to 150 minutes per week. This is much harder than walking and that’s why you don’t need to do so much of it.

Because you don’t have to do so much vigorous activity per week, you can do 15 minutes per day 5 days per week. This is half the walking amount but then it’s harder. I do advise you not to use an incline even though the treadmill has one. It’s not good for your joints to run for long periods on an incline. It’s hard enough already, you don’t need to make it harder.

Official physical activity guidelines

The minutes I gave are all guidelines for adults aged 16 to 64. The individual web pages for your nation are below. They also advise you do 2 strength training days per week too. There are many ways to incorporate this into your routine. But the main activity recommendations can be done easily and conveniently on a treadmill.

International and national physical activity guidelines:

The exercise can be done in 10 minute chunks so if time is an issue it can be separated. Also if you’re walking 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week. One day you may have been out shopping and easily fulfilled your daily quota. If you have time you may want to do your treadmill routine as well but you don’t have to.

I do advise you read the guidelines especially the USA one which is very detailed. You may be doing a lot of activities that qualify as moderate or vigorous already. This could save you a lot of time and energy especially if you’re following an exercise plan. Many sports would be considered vigorous and time needs to be taken to build up exercise gradually.

Any exercise is better than none

The recommended amounts are a lot if you don’t exercise and represent a real commitment in time. Doing it 5 days a week is only my recommendation, you can do it in 3 days if you wish. However, any exercise is better than none. It has real benefits for you that even if you can only manage a 20 minute walk 3 times per week or less even. You’ll be doing yourself a lot of good.

Harvard Medical School refers to “quick workouts” and these can prevent excess weight which is one of the major problems in the developed world today. Just 15 minutes can burn 100 calories which can make the difference between being over weight and not and all the problems associated with obesity. All we need to do is make that initial effort and you’ll see and feel results.

Once you do the minimum which is 150 minutes walking or 75 minutes running per week you get great health benefits. You can do more if you wish for even greater benefits but as long as you can do the minimum. The benefits don’t double because you’ve done double the minutes. So you don’t need to go overboard with the exercise.

1. Improves muscular and cardio health

Cardiovascular health is our heart and lungs and exercise is fantastic for these. Exercise pumps oxygenated blood to our muscles in order to help us achieve the activity and that is our heart’s responsibility and primary function. Research shows it makes our heart work more efficiently even when we’re not exercising.

Our lungs need to carry the oxygen from the air to our blood and they also get a booster from exercise. These two systems within our bodies take the brunt of the work we do when we walk or run and so they work better over time to help us exercise for longer. It’s a very clever system and it’s within all of us working all day, everyday of our lives.

It’s the muscles that help us do the exercise so they also improve and work more efficiently by adapting to cope with the “stress” we’re putting them under. Our muscles tone and become bigger which is essential at every age but especially as we get older. Our muscles deplete as we get older so a good workout on a treadmill is fantastic at reversing any age related muscle loss.

2. Improves bone health

As per OrthoInfo, exercise is a great way of improving bone health for all ages. But especially the elderly and people at risk of getting osteoporosis. If you have thinning bones then you are advised to check with your doctor to see which activities you can undertake. Specifically, it’s the bone density that sees the improvement.

Unfortunately the improvement is location specific, so if you walk or run then only the bones in your legs and feet get the benefit, not those in your wrist for example. Brisk walking and jogging help because they are weight baring activities. In other words it’s your own body weight you are using to increase your bone health. Some strength exercises are also encouraged.

3. Reduces the risk of death

The World Health Organization say that people who are physically inactive have a 20 to 30% increased risk of death compared to their active friends. This was shocking to me when I first read this. But due to the amount of ailments, diseases and cancers that regular exercise reduces, you can see how they came to that conclusion.

Physical activity reduces the risk of some of our biggest killers like breast cancer and colon cancer. Hypertension or high blood pressure which is a big killer with no symptoms can be reduced with exercise. I have found my blood pressure going down when I worked out regularly. Strokes are reduced, diabetes and heart disease. Our treadmills really are life savers if we use them well.

4. Improves mental health

The latest research shows that exercise can have a remarkable effect on our mental health. It reduces anxiety, depression and general negative mood. It boosts our self esteem and cognitive function. Exercise requires concentration especially on a treadmill and this helps us however many minutes we can do.

I have ADHD and one of the symptoms is a lack of motivation. I have found exercise to be the perfect treatment for this. My psychiatrist confirms that her patients have experienced this too. It creates a real “get up and go” feeling in everyday life that I wouldn’t be without it. This better feeling, which is also like a runners high, lasts for several days.

5. Helps maintain a healthy body weight

This is probably one of the most common reasons for taking up exercise in the first place, to lose weight. And it does it very well, you burn so many calories on a treadmill whether you’re walking or running you can control your weight easily. No more do you have to be worried about having that pizza one evening.

If you get on your treadmill a lot then you can keep your weight at a stable level. I lost 30 pounds in 21 weeks and that was with several weeks of not keeping up with my routine. We all now know that the combination of exercise and a sensible diet is great for losing and maintaining a healthy weight. All this and you look much healthier too.


So 150 minutes of walking or 75 minutes of running are how many minutes you ideally should do. You also don’t have to do one of the other, you could walk for 30 minutes one day and run 15 minutes the next. Remember these are guidelines so you don’t have to stick to them so rigidly if you don’t want to. As long as you’re doing some exercise everyday is in the spirit of what is needed.

It’s all about avoiding a sedentary lifestyle which can shorten our lives so much. The less time we spend sitting down and the more we spend active the better. Some activities will involve a social element, which helps, and some are individual. Try and do as many minutes you can fit in to your day and you’ll get all the benefits I’ve described above.

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

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