Long bouts of exercise daily without a day off can lead to burnout.
If the words "weight loss" and "effort" conjure up images of sweating away on a treadmill, you're hardly alone; the treadmill is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of exercise and weight loss effort. It's also a very effective choice, because 90 minutes of daily treadmill time is usually enough to spur weight loss - as long as you pay attention to your diet, scale the exercise appropriately and don't overtrain.
Calories Burned on a Treadmill
Exactly how many calories you burn while walking on that treadmill depend on a number of factors, including your age, gender and body composition. Two of the biggest factors, and the easiest to identify, are body weight and intensity of workout: The more you weigh and the harder you work out, the more calories you'll burn. These estimates, based on figures from Harvard Health Publishing, give you an idea of how many calories a 185-pound person would burn in 90 minutes of walking or running at varying speeds:
- 3.5 mph (a very brisk walk): 534 calories
- 4 mph (for many, a slow jog): 600 calories
- 5 mph (a slow run): 1,065 calories
- 6.7 mph (a moderately fast run): 1,464 calories
Assuming you're not taking in more calories than you burn, any of those speeds are a recipe for fast weight loss - but you still need to balance calories in versus calories out if you want the weight to stay off long-term.
If you're just getting started, you might not be able to complete 90 minutes of treadmill time right off the bat. Focus on what you can do now, then gradually increase the time or treadmill speed until you reach your goal.
How to Boost Your Burn
Do you want to burn more calories without spending more time on the treadmill? Try adding short intervals at a higher speed or steeper incline. To help those intense intervals come easier, try cranking up your favorite music, using an automatic program that adjusts the treadmill's speed or incline for you, or using one of the high-tech "virtual reality" programs on newer treadmills, which incorporate video footage of running through exotic terrain or simulate racing a friend.
Balancing Diet and Exercise
Although cardio equipment like a treadmill can be immensely helpful on any weight loss journey, exercise alone doesn't complete the whole picture. The key to losing weight isn't to exercise X minutes a day on X type of exercise equipment; instead, the key is to balance the number of calories you take in versus the number of calories you burn throughout the day. In fact, 98 percent of the participants in the National Weight Control Registry - a long-term study of more than 10,000 people - say they modified their eating habits in some way to lose weight.
That doesn't mean you have to be a hard-core dieter to lose weight, but keeping a regular log of what you eat and drink can help you spot calorie-dense treats that may be throwing off your weight loss efforts.
Gauging Your Calorie Intake
Want some help gauging exactly how many calories you should be eating? The U.S. Government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend a range of 1,600 to 2,400 calories for adult women, and 2,000 to 3,000 calories for adult men. Those are enormous ranges, with more specific estimates varying according to age and activity level; consider using online tools like the American Council on Exercise's daily caloric needs calculator, or Active.com's basal metabolic rate calculator, for a closer estimate.
A blanket daily caloric needs calculator is meant to include physical activity like treadmill walking, so if you go that route, don't add in a calorie burn for your time on the treadmill. But a basal metabolic rate calculator only tells you the number of calories your body burns during the essential processes of keeping you alive, so if you go that route, do add in the number of calories you burn while exercising.
Watch Out for Boredom and Overtraining
While spending 90 minutes a day on your treadmill can be a very effective part of any weight loss program, doing the exact same thing for 90 minutes a day, every day, is a recipe for two things: overtraining and boredom. As long as your feet and legs are in good health, your treadmill absorbs shock well and you've had time to become accustomed to the exercise, 90 minutes a day of gentle walking isn't a likely recipe for overtraining. But if you're doing more intense workouts or if your body is still adapting to the idea of regular workouts, it's a good idea to give yourself two or three rest days a week, because allowing your body time to recover is an important part of any exercise program.
If you want to maintain a higher level of activity without putting yourself at risk for overtraining, consider mixing some different workouts in with your treadmill sessions. Cross-training with activities like riding a bike, swimming, playing on organized sports teams and lifting weights are all ways to maintain a higher level of activity while reducing your risk of injury from doing the same exercise over and over.