Although you can certainly lose some weight by using the treadmill an hour a day for five days -- which is a healthy weekly cardio schedule -- don't expect miracles without other lifestyle changes. Serious weight loss requires a whole package that includes sensible eating along with aerobic exercise -- and ideally, strength training twice weekly on top of that.
Treadmills and Calories
The treadmill's fat-blasting power stems from it's ability to help you burn calories quickly -- provided you work hard. Walking at a moderate pace of 3.5 mph, a 160-pound woman burns about 315 calories per hour, or 1,575 calories over five days. One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, so that's less than half a pound of lost weight -- assuming she eats just enough calories to sustain her weight without the exercise. On the other end of the spectrum, that woman burns about 860 calories running for an hour at 8 mph, or 4,300 calories over five days, leading to more than 1 pound of fat loss.
Building a Routine
You may be eager to start shredding calories as quickly as possible, but it's wise not to start running for extended time periods until you've built up to the intense exercise. Start with walking, then incorporate 30- to 60-second jogging intervals every three or four minutes. Gradually shorten the walking intervals while increasing jogging times. One way to test your pace is to try to speak; if it's difficult to talk without gasping for breath, reduce your speed. Even after you've graduated to an hour of straight running, warm up and cool down with a five- to 10-minute walk.
Using the treadmill may seem like a no-brainer -- after all, you walk every day -- but injuries do happen. Face forward rather than watching your feet, and keep your abs engaged and your shoulders back. If you're using a home machine, place it at least a few feet away from walls, and hide cords to avoid tripping on them. Make sure the belt is stopped -- or moving at less than 0.5 mph -- before getting on or off the treadmill.
You'll banish fat much faster if you limit food intake, so make smart, sustainable changes like ditching soft drinks in favor of plain or sparkling water and snacking on fresh fruits and veggies instead of greasy chips. Prepare meals at home to accurately gauge calorie intake, and use minimal oils and butter while cooking. Instead of using food as a reward, find other ways to treat yourself, such as a hot bubble bath. HelpGuide.org also recommends chewing each bite 30 times to slow down the eating process, and putting down the fork before you feel completely full.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.