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The 7 Best Treadmill Exercises for Weight Loss, Fitness Experts Say

Shred muscles and shed pounds with these fun treadmill workouts.

When you're trying to lose weight, one of the best things you can do is to keep your body guessing while exercising. Though just about any movement will help you burn calories and boost your metabolism, exercises that challenge your body to move in new ways will pack the greatest punch by engaging even the most underused muscles. Walk on the treadmill, for instance, and you may begin to shift the scales. But add some unexpected moves, and you're likely to see the pounds melt away faster.

On top of this, a 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that people are more likely to adhere to their fitness programs when they add novelty to their routines—and as we all know, the best workout plan is the one you'll actually stick to.

That's why we checked in with three top fitness experts to find out which novel treadmill exercises will help you lose more weight than walking or jogging alone. They're sharing their seven favorite fat-shredding workouts to turbo-charge your weight loss while keeping you committed to your routine.

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The 12-3-30 workout


You don't need to stray far from your regular treadmill routine to make new strides in your weight loss, some experts say. By being mindful of speed, incline, and duration, you can see better results in a shorter period of time.

Daniel Richter, CPT, a personal trainer, fitness coach, and founder of the fitness tracking app Strength Log, suggests starting with something known as the 12-3-30 workout. To try it, set your treadmill to a 12 percent incline at a speed of 3 miles per hour (mph) and walk for 30 minutes straight.

"The 12-3-30 workout is one of my go-to recommendations," Richter tells Best Life. "This low-impact routine is incredibly effective for improving heart health and burning calories thanks to the incline-generating work."

In fact, Richter notes that social media influencer Lauren Giraldo lost 30 pounds doing this workout routine five times per week. "She found it challenging but saw great results. I always tell clients to start with a lower incline and build up individual fitness levels," he says.

Hill sprints


Next, Richter suggests trying hill sprints, a treadmill exercise he describes as "metabolically challenging."

To try it, crank the incline to 10 to 12 percent and sprint as fast as comfortably possible for 30 seconds. "Recover by lowering the incline to three to five percent and slowing to a jog for 90 seconds before the next sprint," Richter suggests. "Just three rounds of this will spike your caloric output for hours post-workout."

Andrew White, CPT, a personal trainer and the founder of Garage Gym Pro, agrees that combining the intensity of sprints with the resistance of inclines "dramatically increases the cardiovascular and muscular demand, leading to higher calorie burn." Like Richter, he recommends always warming up and cooling down from this high-intensity form of exercise.

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Treadmill power-hike with dumbbells

dumbell and rope on gym floor

White says that adding weights to your treadmill workout is another great way to accelerate the weight loss benefits of an incline walk: "This intensifies the workout, engaging more muscle groups and increasing calorie burn. It simulates the challenge of hiking with a heavy backpack."

To give it a try, set your treadmill's incline between five and 10 percent, and walk at a brisk pace for 10 to 15 minutes. "Hold a light dumbbell in each hand. Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Perform exercises like arm curls or shoulder presses every few minutes to keep the upper body engaged, or just walk with the weights in hand for added resistance," White suggests.

Reverse treadmill walk

Portrait of good looking and fit elder woman working out on treadmill. Stylish senior woman looking younger than her age. Man with towel on shoulder on foreground, blured. Couple in gym.

Another way to keep your body guessing is by reversing course on the treadmill.

"Walking backward on the treadmill challenges your coordination and balance, targeting your calves and quads differently than forward walking or running," explains White. He suggests setting your treadmill at a low to moderate speed before carefully turning around to face the opposite direction.

"Hold onto the handrails initially to get your balance. Walk backward, starting with slow, deliberate steps, gradually increasing pace as you become more comfortable," he says.

Adnan Ayoub, a clinical exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and specialist in cancer exercise rehabilitation at Max Health Living, agrees that this can have a great impact on your overall health and weight loss. He notes that it can also enhance your brain health by forming new neural pathways as you process the unfamiliar movement.

Treadmill dance

Woman Running on a Treadmill at the Gym {Health Mistakes}

Adding a few dance moves to your treadmill routine can also help you shed more pounds—but the benefits don't stop there.

"Dancing on a treadmill can make the time fly by and is a fantastic way to improve coordination, rhythm, and cardiovascular endurance," says White, who recommends between 15 to 20 minutes of continuous movement.

"Play your favorite upbeat music. Slow the treadmill to a comfortable walking pace. Add dance moves like side steps, arm movements, and gentle twists. Gradually incorporate more complex dance moves as you feel comfortable," he says.

However, White notes that it's important to be cautious with your foot placement and balance to avoid an accidental injury.

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Lateral shuffles

Handsome muscular man is preparing to run on the treadmill in the gym. He wears a black sweatshirt and blue pants. Guy looks backward. Shoot from the side. Horizontal.

Next, Ayoub suggests trying lateral shuffles to get your heart rate going on the treadmill.

"Face left or right and quickly shuffle your feet, tapping the edge of each tread with every step. Keep your core braced. This dynamic cardio taxes your muscles in fresh ways for accelerated fat burn," he says.

To challenge your muscles even more, add a resistance band around your knees while you side step on the treadmill. Keep the pace slow and your movements deliberate.

Ski steps

Family Workout. African American Husband And Wife Training Together In Living Room, Doing High Knees Exercise. Happy Black Couple Warming Up, Standing And Lifting Leg Up To Chest, Free Copy Space

For an added challenge that will help you torch calories, you can turn lateral shuffles into ski steps with a small tweak in movement.

"Face the sides of the treadmill belts and walk lifting your knees high, like an exaggerated march," Ayoub says. "Really engage your core and glutes to get maximum tone while you move. This works different muscles than regular walking does!"

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