Walk into nearly any gym, and there's a good chance you'll see some woman, red-faced and panting, walking on an incline on the treadmill. She may look a little the worse for wear, but she is getting a great workout. Incline walking on a treadmill offers several benefits, including helping decrease your risk for chronic disease and helping you look great in your favorite pair of jeans.
The most obvious benefit of incline walking on a treadmill is improvements in cardiovascular fitness. Unless you are an elite athlete with amazing conditioning, there is a good chance your heart rate and breathing will increase as soon as you start walking on an incline. Forcing your cardiovascular system to work overtime for a prolonged amount of time, like the usual 30- to 60-minute workout, will cause it to adapt and become more efficient at its job. This means the more you work out, the easier it becomes for your heart and lungs to pump blood and transport oxygen. If you reach a point where you find you are no longer breathing hard, increase your pace or the incline of the treadmill to continue to challenge yourself.
Incline walking on a treadmill is a great way to improve muscular fitness, primarily endurance. The more time you spend incline walking, the better your muscles will become at transporting waste products out of the cells and oxygen-rich blood in. This will allow you to walk farther before encountering muscle fatigue. With a few sessions of incline walking, you could go on a day hike with the guys and leave them in the dust.
Improvements in Body Composition
As you probably know, walking on a level surface is a great workout for your legs, but add an incline to that and the muscle activation increases significantly. Incline walking will challenge your quads, hamstrings and even your glutes, resulting in nicely toned muscles. Couple this with the fact that regular intense cardio such as incline treadmill walking can lead to significant reductions in body fat. Try a slower speed with a high incline for the greatest muscle usage and fat breakdown.
Improved Bone Density
Healthy bone mass is just as important as the visible physical benefits of incline walking on a treadmill. Weight-bearing exercise such as incline walking stresses the bone tissues, forcing them to adapt and become stronger. This is especially important for women, who are at a higher risk for osteoporosis. Incline walking specifically improves bone mineral density in your feet, legs and hips, which are often sites for overuse injuries with endurance training.
Overall Health Improvements
As with all cardiovascular exercise, incline walking on a treadmill can benefit your overall health significantly. Regular cardio can lower your blood pressure and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. Incline walking also does work behind the scenes to lower your bad cholesterol, raise your good cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity, which can lower your chances of developing diabetes.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Third Edition; Thomas Baechle et al.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Seventh Edition; Lawrence Armstrong, Ph.D., et al.
- MayoClinic.com: Osteoporosis: Prevention
- American Heart Association: Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.