Believe it or not, there are differences between a treadmill and an incline trainer. Many people aren’t immediately aware of the differences, but it is important to be in the know before deciding on which one to purchase or use at the gym. Both engage similar muscles and involve basic jogging techniques, but each burns calories at different rates, have different intensities and different purposes. Which one you choose depends on your fitness goals.
A treadmill is an exercise machine that has a continuous belt, allowing you to walk, jog or run in place. An incline trainer is similar to a treadmill, except that it allows you to walk or jog on an incline of up to 40 percent. The purpose of a treadmill is to run on a level plane at a variety of speeds, as if you were running outside on a flat path. An incline trainer allows you to experience a more intense workout as if you were running up a steep hill.
The main difference between a treadmill and an incline trainer is the incline of the machine. There are several health benefits when choosing to run on an incline instead of a flat surface. First, it will enable you to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. It may also increase your endurance and speed. Although you will have to jog slower while on an incline, it actually engages the leg muscles also used for sprinting. This increases your speed in the long run. To build up your leg strength, run full speed on an incline for 10 seconds at a time. Finally, running on an incline puts less pressure on your shin bones, protecting you from shin splints.
If you are looking to purchase an exercise machine for jogging, another important consideration is the price. In general, treadmills are less expensive than incline machines. The more accessories you want on your exercise machine, the more expensive it will be, but as with most fitness equipment, you can always find both treadmills and incline trainers on sale for lower prices.
Calories burned during a treadmill workout versus an incline trainer workout will vary. In general, walking on an incline is similar to walking uphill. This requires more energy and can potentially burn more calories compared with walking without an incline. According to Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, a 130-pound person can walk 4 mph with no incline and burn 236 calories per hour. Walking at a slower 3.5-mph pace uphill results in a greater calorie burn. A 130-pound person can walk uphill at this pace and burn 354 calories per hour.
The final decision of whether to use a treadmill or an incline trainer is up to personal preference. The treadmill and the incline trainer can increase your endurance, muscle strength and speed. The difference is the intensity and time needed to accomplish your goals. With a treadmill, you will have a less-intense workout, which requires less energy, but it will take longer to reach your goals. Using an incline trainer will help you achieve your goals more quickly, but your workout will be more intense and will require more energy.
- Shape: Hill Running: 5 Reasons to Love the Incline
- Life Fitness: Treadmill Inclines Maximize Workout
- Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services: Calories Burned Per Hour
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: An Integrated Biomechanical Analysis of High Speed Incline and Level Treadmill Running; Swanson SC, Caldwell GE; June 2000
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.