What Are The Benefits Of Exercising On A Treadmill?
By Simon Gould
The benefits of any exercise are many. But a treadmill is possibly the ultimate cardio workout there is. There's so much variety of the things you can do. Here I've built a list of 20 benefits to exercising on a treadmill and I think I could have added more. It's my favorite piece of exercise equipment and it could be yours too so let's begin.
1 - A treadmill is easy to use
Can you walk? Can you jog? Can you run? Then you can use a treadmill. It's easier than riding a bike. I did feel some anxiety as I started to run for the first time but you get used to it very quickly. There is a reason it's the most popular fitness equipment and that's because it's so easy to use. Simply lift one foot in front of the other and you're there.
Before I got my own treadmill, in every gym or health club I've ever been a member of, there are more treadmills than anything else. Whether you're tall, small, skinny or fat, you can get a good workout on a treadmill. The treadmill can measure your speed, distance and more. This is similar to the data you can get from a bike or elliptical. All simple exercise anyone can do.
2 - Nice, smooth surface
These are the benefits of a smooth surface. Outside you have to deal with all kinds of terrain. Whether that's on a nice sidewalk or a park. You should have running shoes but they can't protect you should you slip or find yourself unbalanced. You take the smooth surface of a treadmill for granted. Grass is a soft surface but nothing beats the low impact of a treadmill deck.
New technology have made the treadmill even more cushioned for the exerciser. Special decks have been given fancy names by the manufacturer. They're even on brand and the cushioning forms part of the features to look out for. This means you can exercise on a treadmill far longer than you could normally. This is a real added benefit any runner can appreciate.
3 - Total control
When you're running or walking outside. How fast are you going? What distance are you covering? All this information is readily available on the treadmill console. Need to up the pace to walk or run faster to beat your previous time? Simply up the pace of speed. All this information is accurate because treadmills are calibrated when new.
A hill is great for working out different parts of the leg. It's especially good for power walking and turning it into a cardio exercise. That's the beauty of the incline on a treadmill. You are advised not to run on too high an incline for too long as it isn't natural. But it's a great tool to have at your disposal and is another benefit the treadmill has.
4 - Workout and custom programs
A good electric treadmill will usually have workout programs built in. These often have names denoting what they're best used for. Names like "calorie burn" or "hills and valleys". These are a great way to mix up your routine and try some other ways of working out. Over time you should find them getting easier as your fitness level improves.
Some treadmills have a feature where you can build custom programs. Here you devise a routine for you to do where you can specify the time and distance and anything else you want the machine to do. You can make it as hard or as easy as you like and it's there permanently. You usually have around 4 or so you can make so there could be one for each member of the family.
5 - Multiple users can get a workout
The treadmill is so easy to use and anyone can exercise on it. So the whole family can use one and they can adjust the levels depending on their level of fitness or what they're trying to achieve. You may want to supervise children if you let them on the treadmill at all. A level of maturity is required for a potentially dangerous machine.
Even the elderly can get their own workout. Although, again, a health care professional may be a wise precaution to check they don't overdo it too quickly. Otherwise the one machine in the home, if well maintained, can provide years of health improvement for everyone around it. They can make a great investment but make sure you get a decent one and it will last.
6 - Burns the most calories
Out of all the fitness equipment available. For the amount of effort put in, the treadmill burns the most calories. The upper body gets some exercise but the lower body and core do all the work. If you're counting calories and you want the best, then a treadmill is the one that will benefit you the most.
The great thing is, you can measure the exact amount of calories burned. You just need some key information like your weight. Then the incline, time and distance or speed, and you can know the weight loss you'll generate. My favorite website is the best at telling you the calories burned. Just follow the simple instructions: treadmill calorie counter.
7 - Variety of training
I've said before the treadmill is good for all fitness levels, whether you want to walk or run. Even professional athletes will use a treadmill for certain aspects of their training. Speed work is perfectly done on a treadmill and can increase the speed of your normal runs. There are 3 types of speed work. These are fartlek, interval and tempo.
You can also do high intensity interval training. People usually associate that kind of training with weights or spin bikes. But it can be done on a treadmill, successfully as well. For those who want to walk, can use the incline to turn a normal walk into a tough one. Turn the incline up further and you're looking at an anaerobic activity that builds leg muscle.
8 - Entertainment can make it interesting
Treadmills have a reputation for being boring. Runners who go outside will often look down on their treadmill running partners. However, they can be more fun than running outside when you add a television or podcast to the mix. With a treadmill at home, you will always have a nice large TV in front of you to keep you entertained.
There is now new technology to help keep the treadmill runner interested. Zwift is a new service where you can compete against other runners using an app. It isn't free but well worth the money for what you get. The Peloton treadmill has a large 32 inch screen built in and has you taking a class with an instructor cheering you on, encouraging you to adjust the speed and incline as you go.
9 - Reduction on joint impact
The treadmill deck has far less impact than a sidewalk. This makes it far more appealing to older runners or those coming back from injury. As an older runner, I found my left knee couldn't take regular treadmill exercise. That was when I was running around 5 times per week, for 30 minutes at a time.
The decks are now very cushioned. When I was younger I could run for hours on a treadmill. The exercise you do can help you as you get older. Power walking is not something I've tried but I've seen it done. It looks very beneficial and is aerobic exercise. It's good on the joints and knees because of the low impact way you use the treadmill.
10 - Simulate running courses
If you have a race, you often can't run the course before, so you never get any practise on the course. Well, with a treadmill that can change. Using the incline and now a decline that many now have. You can replicate any course you can think of. No matter how long it may be. The course may be outside but repeating the experience will have a great benefit for the runner.
You could use a custom program and make the course in there. Then you can repeat it however many times you want. You'll be able to get a good forecast on the sort of time you can expect. If there is no race but you want to replicate your favorite running route then you can do it. Maybe the weather isn't suitable, so hop on a treadmill and get your regular workout done.
11 - Mental health and motivation
Nearly every health organization in the world confirm the benefit of exercise on mental health. This includes the US National Library of Medicine (source). They say it improves mood, helps you deal with stress. It increases mental alertness and boosts sleep. There are more, but I like the endorphins that go around the body after I exercise and make me feel good.
Did you know, exercise can help with motivation throughout life. Experts in the field of adhd in children and adults agree. People with adhd really struggle with procrastination and motivation. They found exercise really helps these patients with this debilitating side effect of adhd. This is proven by the American College of Sports Medicine in June 2016 (source).
12 - Heart and cardiovascular health
Moderate and vigorous exercise gets the heart beating faster and this is fantastic for your cardiovascular health. The heart is like a muscle and it has to pump the blood around the body. Exercise means the heart has to work harder to pump oxygenated blood to the muscles that need it. Do this regularly and the heart gets more efficient and strengthens.
Regular exercise is also great at lowering your blood pressure. Hypertension is a silent killer so getting exercise on the treadmill is of great benefit to those who maybe suffering from this. It's when you do aerobic activity you get the most benefit. This is like brisk walking or jogging and more. Anything that gets the heart beating faster is a good thing (source).
13 - Weight loss results
I've already mentioned that a treadmill burns the most calories. Combine this with a balanced and appropriate diet and you have weight loss. Create a calorie deficit by getting regular exercise and you will lose weight. Once you get to your desired weight continue exercising for many health benefits and to maintain your weight.
When do you reach your weight goal then eat enough to maintain weight as you want to be healthy. This will inspire you with confidence and improve your self esteem. You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound in weight. That sounds a lot, but get on the treadmill regularly and you will soon start seeing results.
14 - Treadmills are private
Some people are embarrassed about exercising outside and don't want to be seen. Maybe you don't like how you look when you're jogging. Having your own treadmill gives you the perfect privacy to look how you like when you exercise. You may not even want to go to a public gym or health club so having your own space would be ideal for you.
Maybe you live in a quiet area or you're worried about being harassed outside. Maybe you don't feel safe or it's dark when you get back from work. All these worries are gone when you have your own gym in your house. Whenever you stop exercising you're home. Outside you could be far from home when you lose your energy. Not the case with your own treadmill.
15 - Muscle building
You don't normally associate the treadmill with building muscle but it is possible. Using the incline you could build your leg muscles. It is possible to get anaerobic exercise from a treadmill. You can do this by sprinting as well. You would have to be careful with this but it is doable. The lower body can get larger by working out.
You would need quite a powerful treadmill to sprint on. Most have a top speed of about 12 mph. This exercise may increase your weight at first. This is due to muscle building which is heavier than fat. All exercise is good so don't neglect it, at what ever form it takes. Some people like to build muscle while others may prefer a leaner frame.
16 - Increases bone density
As per the National Institutes of Health, bones are just like muscle in that they respond to exercise by getting stronger (source). The best exercise for your bones are weight bearing exercises like weights and resistance. But that doesn't mean that a treadmill doesn't play a role in helping your bone health and density.
Walking, jogging and running acts like a weight bearing exercise because you're propelling yourself against gravity. This exercise is good for treating and preventing osteoporosis. It also helps prevent bone loss which begins at age 20 and gets worse as we age. As part of an overall health routine, exercising on a treadmill should be your first port of call.
17 - Helps develop balance and flexibility
You need more balance to run or jog on a treadmill than outside. The deck and belt are a smaller area. Concentration is required when exercising. It's easy to fall or trip and you could injure yourself quite a bit. You're dealing with a fast moving machine and not a stable path outside. This will help your balance enormously and is still relatively safe.
Flexibility will benefit from stretching before and after a run. But the exercise itself will help keep your muscles, tendons and joints flexible. Compared to inactivity, the vigorous movement of jogging, running and power walking on a treadmill will get the blood circulating where it's needed most.
18 - Monitor progress over time
Because of the information you're given, like speed, distance time and calories burned, you can clearly track your progress over time. As your fitness level improves after just a few weeks, you'll be able to exercise for longer, quicker and with more calories burned than before. This is the beauty of exercise.
I would advise that it's essential to track your progress. This is the major part of motivation for continuing to exercise. Whether you want the weighing scales to go down or you're training for a race, monitoring your progress helps you track your new abilities. Then you'll know if you've reached your ideal weight or you can run that 10k quicker than before.
19 - Toning of muscles
The shape and toning of your muscles makes the treadmill a great workout. For a better shaped butt and slim and shapely thighs, a good workout is all you need. Together with the weight loss mentioned before, muscle toning will occur naturally as the level of fat in your body decreases. Leaving you with an enviable shape.
Don't worry about building too much muscle if you don't want it, aerobic exercise doesn't do that, you need resistance exercise and testosterone for that. Burning fat will occur throughout your whole body, not just your legs, even though your lower body is doing all the work. These are benefits of exercising on a treadmill.
20 - Bad weather won't affect you
This is due to working out inside as opposed to outside. Maybe where you live is very cold throughout the year, or it gets dark very early. Maybe it's raining really bad. Working out on a treadmill gives you none of these problems. I like to have mine by a window so I can see the outside world while I run.
There are other obstacles to exercising outside. If you run in a built up area you have to deal with other people and cars that get in the way. You could be stopping and starting every so often and that doesn't help with your routine at all. I've run in some of the most beautiful parks in the country and I'm just as happy on my treadmill.
When it comes to the medical benefits of exercising on a treadmill, I like the often mentioned words from medical officers everywhere. They say that if exercise were a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication and would be like a cure all, for all the amazing things it does for our health. For our minds and bodies.
The trouble is exercise is not a pill and requires a lot of effort and work. You do get used to it and it does make you feel so good. There's also a sense of accomplishment that you're not going to get from taking a pill. I like this, you get back what you put in. Exercise is becoming more and more popular as countries around the world recommend their citizens get a regular workout. So get on that treadmill and reap the benefits, you'll start enjoying it.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2021