Walking or Running, Here's How Long to Hit the Treadmill For Weight Loss

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Cardio is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to weight loss, and running is a classic choice: accessible, effective, pretty straightforward. If you’re using a treadmill for your running-for-weight-loss routine, you might think it’s the same deal – just tie your shoes and go – but you want to be strategic if you’re looking to drop pounds with your treadmill.

When it comes to weight loss, the treadmill “can be an extremely effective tool for building aerobic capacity, burning calories, and developing your fitness level,” said Lee Wratislaw, NASM, CPT, a GOLD’s AMP trainer for Gold’s Gym. So how do you lose weight with a treadmill? Yes, you can just hop on and start running, but it’s more effective to have a plan first. You can do a steady-state run or high-intensity interval training (HIIT)-style, and both have different benefits and drawbacks. Of course, you’ll also want to know how long to run for and how often you should be using your treadmill to lose weight. Don’t worry – we asked the questions and the experts answered. Keep reading for tips and strategies on using your treadmill for weight loss.

How Long Should I Work Out on the Treadmill to Lose Weight?

How long you spend on the treadmill depends on whether you’re doing high-intensity interval training or a steady-state workout. Both are effective for weight loss, Wratislaw explained.

Doing HIIT-style training on a treadmill is beneficial for weight loss because:

  • HIIT takes less time. “HIIT training sessions, comprised of shorter bursts at higher speeds followed by periods of active recovery or complete rest, are perfect ways to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time,” Wratislaw told POPSUGAR. Since you’re working so hard in the “work” interval, you’ll want to keep these workouts shorter; Wratislaw recommended 20 minutes.
  • HIIT treadmill workouts help you burn calories after your workout. The HIIT structure helps you burn calories after your workout due to EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This is a high-metabolism state your body enters after intense exercise, in which the increased amount of oxygen in your body requires increased energy and calorie burn. Though EPOC won’t last for hours (and may only burn a modest amount of calories), it’s still an added benefit of choosing a HIIT workout when you’re on the treadmill.

Steady-state treadmill workouts for weight loss are helpful because:

  • Steady-state treadmill workouts can last a little longer. If you want a longer workout, stead-state running or walking on the treadmill is the way to go. Try 30 minutes for a moderate-intensity workout like light jogging, or 40 minutes for low-intensity walking.
  • Steady-state treadmill workouts help your cardio fitness. “Steady-state training is best for building aerobic capacity, or the body’s ability to efficiently use oxygen for exercise,” Wratislaw said. You’ll increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, he explained, which will help you run or walk farther and faster in time, ultimately helping you lose weight.
  • Steady-state treadmill workouts are a good choice for beginners. Start at a speed you can comfortably maintain for at least 20 minutes while maintaining your form, Wratislaw said. This way, you’ll feel challenged but not like you’re about to lose your balance or fall off the machine. Once you get used to the machine and can speed up a bit, you can start challenging yourself with HIIT workouts.

Make sure to always base the time and speed of your treadmill workout on your current fitness level.

Weight-Loss Treadmill Workout Plan

For the most effective weight-loss plan, Wratislaw said, combine treadmill cardio workouts with strength training. Here’s what a sample five-day week of workouts could look like:

  • Monday: 25-minute treadmill HIIT workout
  • Tuesday: 45-minute full-body strength workout
  • Wednesday: Steady-state treadmill workout
  • Thursday: dumbbell resistance workout
  • Friday: 40-minute walking session

Don’t forget to incorporate lower-intensity exercise on your rest days, like walking or yoga, and eat a balanced, nutritious diet to see the best weight-loss results.

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