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The 12-3-30 Workout Is the New Treadmill Exercise Everyone's Talking About

Lose weight, tone up, and improve your heart health.

If you've spent any time on "Fit Tok" lately, chances are you've come across the 12-3-30 workout, a viral treadmill exercise trend that's amassed hundreds of millions of views on social media. Everyone's talking about the simple fitness method, which some say leads to rapid weight loss, enhanced muscle tone, improved cardiovascular health, and more.

Still, you may have questions about the 12-3-30 workout—namely, what it is and whether it's right for you. The good news? Fitness experts say that in a world of dubious health claims and dangerous fitness fads, the internet may finally have gotten something right by recommending this particular trend.

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What is the 12-3-30 workout?

incline walking on treadmill
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"The '12-3-30' routine is an organized treadmill workout intended to improve fitness and cardiovascular health," explains Calum Fraser, a physiotherapist and the CEO of BodyTone Pilates Studio. "The numbers in the sequence stand for important components of the exercise: '12' indicates an incline of 12 percent, '3' indicates a speed of 3 miles per hour, and '30' indicates a period of 30 minutes."

"To put it simply, each participant walks on a treadmill that is positioned at a difficult 12 percent inclination for thirty minutes at a constant pace of three miles per hour," he adds.

Social media influencer Lauren Giraldo first created the 12-3-30 treadmill workout at least five years ago, initially sharing it on YouTube in 2019. She credits these specific treadmill settings for helping her shed 30 pounds without changing her diet.

"I used to be so intimidated by the gym and it wasn't motivating, but now I go, I do this one thing, and I can feel good about myself. Plus, I feel like I look snatched, and this is all I do!" Giraldo said in a 2020 TikTok post.

Fraser says Giraldo's reasons for loving the workout are the same reasons it's risen to viral fame: efficacy and accessibility. In other words, it works, and most people can do it.

"This exercise program is easy to follow and appropriate for people who are not particularly fit. Because it is low-impact, even beginners can do it, which dispels the dread that comes with doing traditional gym workouts," he says.

"Furthermore, the tangible outcomes it produces act as a strong incentive, inspiring beginners and individuals who had previously been reluctant to use a treadmill for exercise. Essentially, the 12-3-30 workout has been widely accepted in the fitness world due to its mix of accessibility and observable benefits," he explains.

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What are the benefits of the 12-3-30 workout?

top-down view of a person standing on the scale looking at their Fitness Tracker Watch
Aleksey Boyko / Shutterstock

Josh Petrawski, a fitness expert and CEO at Sports and Fitness Exchange, says there are a few specific benefits you can expect if you commit to Giraldo's plan. The first is a relatively high calorie burn.

"On average, the 12-3-30 workout can burn between 250-400 calories per session, depending on an individual's weight and fitness level," he tells Best Life. "The incline increases calorie expenditure, which helps achieve goals related to weight control and fat loss."

Petrawski notes that even a five percent incline on a treadmill can increase caloric expenditure by about 52 percent. "This number more than doubles to 113 percent at a 10 percent slope," he says, citing a 2012 study published by the Journal of Biomechanics.

You can also expect to tone your posterior chain muscles as you master the technique.

"Walking at an incline targets the lower body, specifically the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It also engages the core muscles for stability," Petrawski says. "This can improve your lower body strength, posture, and balance gradually."

Of course, as is the case with any cardiovascular exercise, your heart health also stands to benefit. Petrawski notes that this routine improves cardiovascular endurance by maintaining a steady heart rate within the aerobic zone.

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Here's what to do before you start the treadmill workout.

mature man in a green t-shirt walking on the treadmill
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Any time you begin a new fitness routine, Fraser says it's a good idea to start slow and run it by your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

"It's important to approach the 12-3-30 workout carefully if you want the best results, especially if you're new to fitness or incline walking," the fitness expert says. "Starting at a lower elevation than the suggested 12 percent lets your body adjust more gradually, which lessens the strain on your lower back and calves and lowers the possibility of pain or damage like joint soreness or shin splints."

Fraser suggests aiming for three to five sessions of the treadmill exercise each week to maximize its effects.

"Remember, the 12-3-30 workout is only one part of a well-rounded fitness plan. For long-lasting weight loss and overall well-being, combine it with other exercise modalities and a nutritious diet," he says.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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