What Are the Benefits of Treadmill Walking?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Walking is a popular option; it is accessible, inexpensive, provides a good muscular workout and doesn't require learning a new skill. Treadmill walking accomplishes a similar workout to outdoor walking with some added physical and practical benefits.
Musculoskeletal Strength and Tone
Walking regularly on a treadmill helps you maintain a healthy musculoskeletal system, which includes your muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and joints. As a weight-bearing exercise, treadmill walking exerts a pulling force on your bones that helps prevent age-related bone loss. Walking also tones the muscles of your legs and buttocks. Adjusting the treadmill to an incline position improves the toning effect on your legs.
Moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, keeps your joints flexible. This is particularly important if you have arthritis. Walking on a treadmill instead of pavement has the added benefit of reducing the impact on your ankle, knee and hip joints because the deck and belt cushion your strides. This shock-absorbing capacity allows you to walk with less stress on your joints than typically occurs with outdoor walking. Treadmill walking may also reduce the possibility of joint injuries caused by uneven surfaces that commonly occur outdoors.
Brisk treadmill walking can improve your cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your heart and potentially reducing your blood pressure. Regular walking also helps reduce your cholesterol level, lowering your risk for a heart attack and stroke. Some treadmill models are equipped with a heart rate monitor to help you optimize your cardiovascular conditioning.
Reduced Disease Risk
Regular treadmill walking can reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, degenerative arthritis, high blood pressure, depression, insomnia and breast and colon cancer. Walking on a treadmill or participating in another form of moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes per week reduces your risk of dying prematurely.
Walking on a treadmill or outdoors aids in weight management by burning excess calories and keeping your metabolic rate up. Many treadmills feature a calorie counter that estimates the number of calories burned during your workout. This information proves useful in diet planning, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Walking on a treadmill instead of outdoors avoids some of the drawbacks that may keep you from exercising regularly. You do not have to worry about the weather or outdoor air quality, which is an important consideration if you have asthma or seasonal allergies. With a home treadmill, you can enjoy the freedom of exercising anytime you wish. If you're a committed multitasker, being able to catch up on reading, current affairs or other chores while walking on the treadmill is a powerful draw.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans At-A-Glance: A Fact Sheet for Professionals
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Effects of Aging
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Benefits of Physical Activity
- University of San Francisco: Treadmill Training Part 2, Tips
- FamilyDoctor.org: The Exercise Habit
Dr. Tina M. St. John owns and operates a health communications and consulting firm. She is also an accomplished medical writer and editor, and was formerly a senior medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. St. John holds an M.D. from Emory University School of Medicine.