What Is A Treadmill Good For?
By Simon Gould
Treadmills are so good for many things and have advantages over exercising outside. Consistent use boosts your health so much that Harvard Medical School says your life can be extended and improved at any age. They're good for weight loss and maintaining weight. They can also be used for rehabilitation and injury prevention. Here I go through each of these in more detail.
Your heart and lungs, which is your cardiovascular health, do the majority of the work and get the majority of the benefits. The Harvard Medical School article summarizes this complex study that in over 122,000 people, a high level of fitness made them live longer. This was especially the case for older people and those with high blood pressure. The study was done using treadmills.
What's great about improving your fitness on a treadmill is that there's so much data to measure your progress. The console tells you your speed, distance, incline and calories burned. As you get used to exercise you can do more of it like run longer distances. If you walk for fitness you can use the treadmill incline to make it harder for aerobic fitness.
A high level of fitness is not something that can be achieved immediately. If you haven't exercised for a long time and you try to go for 30 minutes, you probably won't manage. You have to build up gradually by doing 5 minutes extra per week until you reach 30 minutes per day, 3 to 5 times per week. This is a big commitment but the benefits are worth it.
Treadmills are great for weight loss as is all exercise. The major benefit is if you want to walk to lose weight, you can take advantage of the incline. Most go up to 12% and you don't need to go that high but enough that you breath a bit heavier. Then you'll burn more calories. Having a calorie deficit with the help of eating sensibly too will lose you weight.
To measure the calories burned this treadmill calorie counter can, even when the incline is used, by entering your weight, gradient and time, it's a great site. This is often called power walking and I always saw many people do this at the gym. The site is good for those who run to lose weight as well, just enter the gradient as zero.
Treadmills often come with workout programs called "calorie burn" or "weight loss". You may want to give these a go as some can be programmed to your individual fitness level. The internet also has many treadmill weight loss routines you could use and I've written some too. Below are mine for both walking and running and using the incline:
Athletes and sports people often use a treadmill to help recover from injuries. Rehabilitation treadmills often have longer handles to grab onto but there's no reason you can't use an ordinary, in home machine the same way. If you're first training after a serious injury then you may want a professional opinion about how much you should do to begin with.
As well as the young and healthy, seniors may need some rehabilitation for which a treadmill may be useful. The fact that they can start at a very slow and predictable pace is an advantage. So is the fact that you remain in the same position in case anything bad could happen. Help could easily get to your location if needed.
Treadmills have far more cushioning means they have less impact and this is what you need most when you're recovering. Muscle injuries can take time to heal and slowly getting back to your old routine is a good thing. My left knee would get sore with running outside but I don't get that when I exercise on my treadmill.
When exercising it's incredibly useful to know your heart rate. This way you know how hard your body is working and how long you can go for. Most modern treadmills can read this. I'm not referring to the pulse rate grips you have on the handle bars, these are not usually very accurate. I mean heart rate chest straps that transmit the number to the console.
Treadmill exercise really builds strength in the legs. When you use the incline your legs have to do more work especially when the incline is used. The strength in your muscles helps with balance and posture. It also builds bone density which can decrease as we get older. This means that regular exercise can help delay or prevent osteoporosis.
The World Health Organization says regular physical activity can give great health benefits. Both the body and mind receive these and generally the more you can do the better. Along with the benefits I've already mentioned, it boosts the immune system and reduces blood sugar which reduces your risk of diabetes. For the mind it can help with low to moderate depression.
Types of exercise on a treadmill
Speed training is very popular on a treadmill. This is for people who want to run quicker on longer distances. These types of exercises have names like high intensity interval training and tempo and involve running very fast then a slow jog for a brief time and then repeated. It actually works, I've tried it myself but it's a hard workout!
I've also tried long distances on a treadmill. Because you're told your speed, you can accurately measure your time for a long run. Some may think this boring but if you own a treadmill you know the perfect set up is a TV right in front of you. Whether you're watching a Netflix show or listening to a podcast on headphones, the time soon flies by.
The incline is perfect for those who want to walk and/or lose weight. It makes a workout a lot harder which should be an aim for greater benefits. I don't advise running on an incline. This puts unnecessary pressure on the joints and shouldn't be done for an extended period, if at all. An incline is a useful tool if used properly. Replicating a course could be one of them.
Advantages of a treadmill
I prefer running on my treadmill than outside. The weather doesn't affect me, there's no people or traffic in the way, the terrain outside is irregular and bad for my joints. Fifty million people every year use a treadmill in our nation and that's because they're easy to use and convenient. If I need to stop in the middle of a run, I'm at home not miles away.
Workout programs are often an under used benefit. Some have many levels that can cater to any fitness level. You can exercise at one level and rise as you get stronger and fitter. Doing this you will see results on yourself and on the console. Custom programs can be made to devise your own routine. I still sometimes use workout programs.
Treadmills in the home means you can exercise in private. Maybe you're embarrassed about your body or are inexperienced at exercising. Perhaps you're trying to lose weight and would like to do it in privacy. I appreciate my own machine and I can really experiment. It helps know there are no eyes on me as I go. It's definitely something to consider if it's holding you back.
As you can see a treadmill is good for many things. Your health and fitness are the main ones. These benefits are life extending. This has been proven in scientific research. I know when I exercise regularly I certainly feel good. I get a runners high which is really just the brain releasing feel good chemicals when you exercise. This lasts for days.
If all of what I've said above hasn't convinced you about treadmills then consider something else, but as long as you exercise regularly, you will enhance your life in many ways. This enhancement can start at any age. Everyone can get great health benefits. I choose to do my exercise on a treadmill and if you're considering home exercise equipment, I think they're the best for variety and effectiveness.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2021