The treadmill represents all that is good and holy about a gym, but it can also be an object of fear for women who see using it as more complicated than simple walking or running. Many women have flashbacks of going to a new gym, all dolled up in trendy running clothes, and then looking like a moron randomly pressing buttons on the unfamiliar machine. Treadmill workouts, though, are basically the same as regular walking or running, but outdoor running tends to burn more calories, because uneven surfaces mean it takes longer to cover the same distance.
The faster you walk, the more calories you burn, and when walking on a treadmill you don't have to calculate your speed from the time it took you to walk three miles to the shops and back. For example, the Mayo Clinic says that walking for an hour at 2 mph burns 204 calories if you weigh 160 pounds, and if you weigh more, you burn more. Upping your speed to 3.5 mph burns off another 110 calories in that hour, so intensity is key to weight loss and calorie burn in the long term.
For fitter girls, jogging at about 5 mph will give you much more of a calorie burn than walking. At 160 pounds, an hour of jogging uses a massive 600 calories. That equates to three whole doughnuts, which before bikini season or during the wintertime can really help you either shift the bulge or prevent you from putting on weight. The bonus of using the treadmill is that you can set a speed that suits your style of jogging -- slow and steady or in bursts of speed followed by short periods of gasping for breath.
After a few months on the treadmill, and some hard work, it might be time to upgrade to running. An hour at 8 mph gives you a calorie deficit of 860 calories, which is so good it's not even worth eating those four doughnuts to make up for it. If going for a straight hour is too much, you can always break up the time into 20-minute sessions interspersed with something gentle like yoga or working on the arms with weights.
Running outside has its benefits, but it also means you can't control your environment. If you live at the top of a steep hill, then the end of your walk or run is always going to be depressing. On the treadmill, though, you can tweak the incline setting to suit your needs. At a low treadmill incline setting of 2, for example, running for an hour at 6 mph expends about 60 more calories than on the flat. Amping it up to an incline of 5 boosts the difference in calorie burn to about 140 more calories than without an incline. That's almost a whole doughnut.
When it comes to exercise, the Mayo Clinic says that intensity is key. If you're not breaking a sweat or finding it hard to talk while exercising, then your intensity is on the low side. Girls who find it hard to run for 20 minutes straight, for example, can still get a benefit from running hard for three minutes between every five-minute walking portion. This way you get the aerobic benefit of the high-intensity exercise as well as boosting your overall calorie burn. Most treadmills also have inbuilt interval training programs that allow you to keep your workout interesting and unpredictable, and often the treadmill will follow the mixture of intensities and count your calorie burn at the same time.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise intensity: Why it matters, how it's measured
- The Calorie Counter: Calories in Doughnuts
- MayoClinic.com: Rev up your workout with interval training
- weightlossresources.co.uk: Treadmill Running vs Road Running
Jillian O'Keeffe has been a freelance writer since 2009. Her work appears in regional Irish newspapers including "The Connacht Tribune" and the "Sentinel." O'Keeffe has a Master of Arts in journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from University College Cork.