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Just a minor adjustment will help you burn more calories.
The American Council on Exercise recognizes the importance of varying your fitness program to keep you mentally and physically challenged, avoid workout boredom, and stay motivated. One way to vary your treadmill routine is to change the incline setting as you work out. Just a minor adjustment can change the intensity of your workout and make a real difference in the number of calories you burn.
Most treadmills have a separate incline mechanism allowing you raise the angle of the platform to simulate walking up a grade. Inclines vary by machine but are typically expressed as a percentage using numbers of 1 to 10 and higher. According to Treadmill Incline, a 1% incline equates to about a .57 degree angle. Walking on a low setting of 1% to 2% incline is considered relatively level; what you would experience walking outside on flat terrain.
The Power of a Little Incline
To get a better understanding of the power of a little incline, the Shape Sense walking calorie burn calculator estimates someone weighing 130 pounds walking one mile at a modest speed of 3.0 mph with a relatively low incline of 1.0 would burn 83 calories. If that same person walked the same mile at the same speed with at an incline setting of 3.0, they would burn 94 calories.
Fast or Slow, Inclines Burn More Calories
The calorie differential holds at faster speeds. If that same 130 pound walker stepped up the pace to 4.0 mph they would burn 87 calories at an incline of 1%; 100 calories at 3%. Whether you walk or jog, even minor adjustments to your incline will help you burn more calories. Your weight, speed and distance will determine your total calories burned, but increasing your incline will absolutely make your time on the treadmill more productive.
Give yourself time to get used to manually adjusting the incline. As you walk, change incrementally, just one level at a time and note how that small adjustment increases the intensity of your workout. You should feel your heart rate speed up and you might be breathing just a little harder. Adjust the incline every couple of minutes throughout your workout. Once you are comfortable and accustomed to controlling the incline feature manually, you can experiment with automated treadmill programs that will do the adjusting for you.