If you have ever walked a mile up a steep hill, you know firsthand how challenging it can be. The same idea holds true when putting the treadmill to its full incline. It challenges your leg muscles and cardiovascular system and has a greater calorie burn to improve your overall health. The fitness benefits of incline training are comparable to jogging on a flat surface because both get your heart rate up and help with weight loss. You may benefit from using one over the other, so it is worth exploring the pros and cons of each type of exercise.
The number of calories you will burn walking at an incline as opposed to jogging on a flat treadmill deck depends upon your body weight, intensity level and steepness of the incline while walking. The steeper the incline and the amount of time you walk, the more calories you will burn. As a general reference, a 150-pound person burns about 120 calories jogging for 15 minutes and 137 calories walking up an incline. The number of calories burned for each of the workouts is very similar however you burn fewer calories walking on a level surface.
Impact on Joints
If you suffer from joint pain, especially when jogging or running on the treadmill, inclined walking may be the perfect solution. Walking puts far less stress on your joints and lower back compared to jogging, so it is often a more comfortable alternative to jogging and running. A 2011 study published in the journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” found that obese individuals who participate in treadmill walking set at a 6-degree incline and speeds of just 2 to 3 mph were able to get equivalent cardiovascular benefits compared to participants exercising at a faster pace on a flat treadmill deck. The study also found that incline training put less stress on joints and reduced the risk for injuries. As well, switching between a treadmill workout and using the elliptical will reduce joint pain, especially in your knees.
All incline treadmills are different, but most powered treadmills incline to at least 12 percent, some as high as 30 percent. Walking at 3 mph on a 12 percent incline is about the same as jogging flat at 6 mph. There are also many health benefits of walking at an incline over a period of time, including less back pain and lower risk of injury compared to running. As well, it takes longer to walk a mile at 3 mph than to jog at 6 mph, the incline training may actually help you burn more calories and provide a more effective cardio workout, if you track your workout one mile at a time.
There is a lot of confusion out there regarding the so-called fat-burning zone. Some call it a myth, but there is actually some science to support it. The idea is that your body burns a higher percentage of fat calories, as opposed to carbohydrates, when you are in the fat-burning zone. Walking at an incline seems to be more effective at burning fat calories than jogging on a level treadmill. Here is a quick example of how it all works: Walking on a 21 percent incline at 2 mph burns about 6.5 fat calories per minute, while jogging at 5 mph on a flat treadmill burns just 2.9 fat calories per minute.