The Best Treadmill Workouts for Weight Loss, Directly From a Personal Trainer

To build your squat, you’ll need to squat — makes sense. Adding mass means hitting high-intensity sets targeting specific muscle groups — all in all, fairly simple. But the logistics of weight loss are a bit more complex. There are many cardio machines at your disposal to help you along your weight loss journey, and the workouts themselves are incredibly diverse.

Take the treadmill, for example. Walking, jogging, and running are your obvious choices here, but there’s a lot of potential creativity in there, too. You can manipulate your pace, incline, duration, and even intervals to completely customize your experience. With seemingly endless options available, here are the five best treadmill workouts for weight loss.

Best Treadmill Workouts for Weight Loss

Low-Intensity Steady-State

Incline Steady-State Walking

Incline Pyramid

Interval Training

Sprint Interval Training

Low-Intensity Steady-State

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) certainly has its place. But HIIT treadmill workouts can’t have all the glory.

Low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio is a solid choice for athletes at any fitness level, but beginners may be particularly drawn to it. This gentle introduction to cardio workouts ticks all the boxes for any weight loss goal you might have. It contributes to your daily calorie burn, but is also easily broken up into an extended warm-up and cool-down.

The Workout

Low-intensity steady-state workouts place your heart rate into what a lot of people think of as your “fat-burning zone” and holds you there for an extended amount of time. While total fat loss appears to be more influenced by daily calorie balance, it’s still hugely beneficial for your heart health (and energy usage) to integrate some LISS cardio into the mix. (1)

[Read More: The Best Treadmills for Walking]

How Often to Do This Workout: A low-intensity steady-state treadmill workout can be extremely easy to recover from. This means you may be able to perform one every day, especially if you opt for walking over jogging.


Make it Easier: Choose shorter durations or slower pacing if you are just starting out.

Make it Harder: Aim for longer durations or higher pacing if you are trying to make the workout more challenging.

Coach’s Tip: Your goal is to slowly extend the length of time of your low-intensity steady-state workout. Chip away at the duration and gradually build up to 60 minutes per workout.

Incline Steady-State Walking

The incline option on your treadmill — perhaps especially notable if you have a dedicated incline treadmill — is a sneaky but effective way to increase the challenge of your workouts. Not only does your heart rate feel it, but your lower body does, too. Treadmill walking on a flat surface is great for burning calories, but a steady state on an incline smokes your glutes as well.

The Workout

The 12-3-30 treadmill workout — that you probably know from TikTok — is, indeed, a solid reference point for your incline steady-state goals. (During that 30-minute treadmill workout, you’ll walk on an incline of 12, at a pace of three miles per hour, for 30 minutes.) You are aiming for a manageable but moderate-duration workout. However, the addition of the incline and potentially faster pace cuts down the amount of time needed for your gains. 

For a more customizable incline steady-state workout that’s still in line with the 12-3-30 method, try this out:

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How Often to Do This Workout: Your incline steady state walking sessions are still relatively easy to recover from, but they are more difficult than regular steady state. Aim to talk a day off after each session.


Make it Easier: Choose the lower inclines, pace, or durations to make the incline walking workouts easier.

Make it Harder: Aim for the higher options for incline, pace, or duration. One option is taking on the full the 12-3-30 challenge.

Coach’s Tip: Aim for deep strides to really flex into your hips; your hamstrings, glutes, and calves should be very involved here.

Incline Pyramid

Take advantage of the incline for an even more dramatic treadmill challenge. To completely change your experience from simple treadmill walking, try organizing your workout into a pyramid. For each block of time, select an ever-increasing incline.

The Workout

Even the best budget treadmills often come equipped with a respectable incline capacity. That allows you to take full advantage of this unique fat-burning treadmill feature. 

The incline pyramid works on the premise of increasing your incline grade for every block of time you are working out. For example, your goal is to slowly chip away at your highest incline (say, a 12-percent grade) before reversing course and bringing it back down to finish the day. Not only is this an effective weight loss tool, but the constant changes to your incline keep your mind plenty occupied — no time for boredom here.

*Note: This is only one example of how to structure your pyramid.

[Read More: The Best Incline Treadmill on the Market]

How Often to Do This Workout: The incline pyramid workout is quite intense. Aim to incorporate it only once or twice per week along with your strength training.


Make It Easier: Spend more time on the cooldown side of the pyramid. How long you spend in each segment is customizable, and if you need to expand the time you spend on the rough parts of this treadmill routine, that’s OK.

Make It Harder: Increase the pace or incline to create an even higher-intensity workout. If you do that, though, mind that you take extra rest days as needed.

Coach’s Tip: Try your hardest to avoid using the handrails if you can safely do so.

Interval Training

Interval training is a fantastic tool for weight loss, rivaling the fat-burning benefits of low-intensity steady state but in much shorter workouts. Interval training simply divides your workout into structured periods of high-intensity effort followed by recovery blocks of slower pacing. The treadmill is the perfect tool here.

The Workout

Your intervals will be structured to suit your fitness level. Each interval should be matched with an appropriate rest period where you are still moving on the treadmill, but at a much more reasonable pace. The goal is to crank your heart rate for a brief but high-intensity block and then spend a longer duration slowly moving to recover.

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How Often to Do This Workout: If you’re an experienced athlete, you can try this workout between one and three times a week. If you’re just starting out, stick to the lower end of that spectrum for now.


Make It Easier: Increase the duration of time of your rest intervals or decrease the pace of your work interval.

Make It Harder: Increase the pace of your work interval or decrease the duration of your rest interval.

Coach’s Tip: Be sure to start at slower paces and practice the increase and decrease of your treadmill speed.

Sprint Interval Training

Sprint interval training is a form of high-intensity interval training — and arguably, it’s the hardest. Sprint interval training (or SIT) is designed to be all all-out effort for an extremely short period followed by extensive rest. Your workouts won’t be long, but they will certainly be intense.

The Workout

Sprinting and treadmills go together like peanut butter and jelly. Be sure to warm up thoroughly before dividing out your SIT work-to-rest blocks. Be extremely conservative with your work and generous with your rest when you’re just getting started.

[Read More: The Best Cardio Machines for Weight Loss]

How Often To Do This Workout: SIT is one of the hardest treadmill workouts you’ll perform. It may even begin to bite into your recovery needs. Keep your frequency lower at one to two sessions per week tops, unless you’ve truly built up your work capacity and can meet all the recovery needs that a rigorous workout routine demands.


Make It Easier: Increase the length of your rest or decrease the number of sprints.

Make It Harder: Decrease the amount of rest or increase the number of sprints.

Coach’s Tip: Be sure to keep your treadmill safety features engaged to slow the machine if you start losing pace.

Benefits of Treadmill Workouts for Weight Loss

The benefits of the treadmill for weight loss far extend beyond tipping your calorie balance. The treadmill itself is extremely customizable, lending itself to a wide range of challenges. Using it can also improve many cardiovascular health markers and may be a launching pad for other training styles or competitions.

Workout Customization

The treadmill might be the single most widespread piece of fitness equipment. You’ll find it in rows upon rows in many gyms, but also as a favored piece in homes everywhere. With such prevalent availability, the degree of customized workouts has also skyrocketed over time. From treadmill running to treadmill walking workouts, there’s a wide array of options.

[Read More: The Best Treadmills for Apartments]

From more standard variables such as pace, incline, or duration, to creative workouts such as 12-3-30, there is an option suited for so many athletes. Be it built into the machine itself or designed by a trendy fitness influencer, there’s always a new workout on the table for your treadmill session.

Heart Health

The main goal of the treadmill is to recruit big swaths of muscle and to challenge your heart. Although you may be using the treadmill more specifically for calorie balance, your cardiovascular health will be the biggest winner here.

[Read More: The Best Lightweight Treadmills, Expert-Tested]

Elevating your heart rate and maintaining that pace for the duration of a workout plays a solid role in improving blood pressure (along with other cardiovascular benefits). In fact, aerobic exercise such as treadmill work has been shown to assist in successfully managing hypertension among various populations. (2)(3)

Competitive Launchpad

Many different sports or events incorporate running. Marathons, track and field, or even hybrid training styles such as CrossFit have athletes to run — a lot. The treadmill is a powerful exposure point for running more broadly, allowing you to test the waters for future training styles while focusing on your weight loss goal.

Experimenting with several types of treadmill workouts (from incline walking to sprint interval training) is a gateway for other potential fitness goals. From a casual walk for your health to a full-on competitive career, it’s worth exploring your options.


The treadmill is an extremely common choice for weight loss workouts. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.

Is the treadmill good for losing belly fat?

The treadmill is effective for losing belly fat — indeed, fat across your whole body, as you can’t necessarily drive fat loss to a specific area. But remember that the treadmill is simply the means to an end. 

Overall, high- or low-intensity cardiovascular workouts (of various machines or styles) have similar effects on fat loss, but the major factor is your energy balance. (4) A sustainable calorie deficit is the primary driver of losing belly fat.

Is 30 minutes a day on a treadmill enough to lose weight?

Spending 30 minutes per day on a treadmill can indeed help you start losing weight. The goal of using a treadmill (or any other form of cardio) is to build towards a daily goal of calories burned versus calories (or energy) taken in. You aim to land in a mild but consistent calorie deficit, meaning that 30 minutes on a treadmill may squeak you in the goal direction.

Is walking on a treadmill a good way to lose weight?

Walking on a treadmill is a a sustainable way to help you if you want to lose weight. It is low-intensity and chips away at your daily caloric expenditure needs. One of the biggest assets is that the low intensity makes it extremely recoverable. This means you’re able to perform treadmill walking essentially every day if you’d prefer, leaving you with benefits far beyond your calorie count.


Kim J. Y. (2021). Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, 30(1), 20–31. 

Chan, L., Chin, L. M. K., Kennedy, M., Woolstenhulme, J. G., Nathan, S. D., Weinstein, A. A., Connors, G., Weir, N. A., Drinkard, B., Lamberti, J., & Keyser, R. E. (2013). Benefits of intensive treadmill exercise training on cardiorespiratory function and quality of life in patients with pulmonary hypertension. Chest, 143(2), 333–343. 

Dimeo, F., Pagonas, N., Seibert, F., Arndt, R., Zidek, W., & Westhoff, T. H. (2012). Aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure in resistant hypertension. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 60(3), 653–658. 

Zhang, H., Tong, T. K., Qiu, W., Zhang, X., Zhou, S., Liu, Y., & He, Y. (2017). Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women. Journal of diabetes research, 2017, 5071740.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

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