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How a treadmill works to lose weight [Article, Video]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Mar 24, 2020 9:00:00 AM

How a treadmill works to lose weight

How a treadmill works to lose weight

This is an overview for beginners on the topic of treadmill running. We will go through how to run on a treadmill, how you lose weight and which other options of calorie-burning are out there.
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How To use a treadmill running machine

The first question is to pick the right treadmill machine. You will find more than one type of machine in your local gym. Here is a little overview of what might be right for you. The options are: 
The motorized treadmill is the most common sight in the cardio section of a commercial gym. It is powered by an electrical motor to keep at a steady or changing pace. The really fancy models also allow inclines. This way you can simulate hill runs or run outside. The benefit of treadmills is that they are the closest simulation of running outdoors. The disadvantages are the boredom and impact on your feet. 
Ellipticals are another option. They are self-propelled and usually come with a little computer to measure your speed and distance. Their advantage is that you have less impact on your feet and ankles. In return ellipticals probably burn the least amount of calories per minute of the options listed here. 
Self-propelled treadmills are treadmills that work without a motor. This keeps maintenance and power costs lower while the cost of acquisition is higher. Self-propelled treadmills are often curved which makes the impact on your feet lower. In addition, they are better for interval training as it is easier to start and stop or gradually accelerate. 
The Jacob’s ladder is a good choice when you want to combine coordination and maximum calories per minute. As the Jacob’s ladder is upright it makes the cardio training harder. This makes it less suitable for beginners. If you can go fast on the Jacobs ladder you will become a monkey and burn a lot of calories. The disadvantage is that it costs more than a regular treadmill and you will have a harder time finding it second hand. 
The Versa climber is the ultimate machine for burning the most calories in the shortest amount of time. It needs less coordination than the Jacob’s ladder and therefore you can go faster. This, in turn, will burn more calories per minute. Versa Climber also takes less footprint than all of the other options mentioned. This makes it a strong contender for home gym owners who can afford one. The disadvantage is that that it is a quite costly piece of equipment. 

How to use a treadmill

Using a treadmill is not as straight forward as you might think. Especially if you want to get the maximum benefit out of it. Here are some things to consider. 


Make sure that you can connect the treadmill to a power source. Ideally, place the treadmill close to a socket. Keep any connection cables clear of the moving parts. If you are planning a row of treadmills for your commercial gym, think about the sockets before you put the treadmills in. Check where the power button is and that it is on. You can check the computer screen which most treadmills have to make sure.


If you want accurate results for your calorie count you should take this part seriously. The more correct details you provide the more accurate your readings will be. The treadmill computer will most likely ask for: 
  • Age 
  • Weight 
  • Height 
  • Program
Don’t lie about your stats for the best results. Treadmills will still be crude as they are built for averages and not precision, but don’t make it worse by lying to the system. If you want very precise measurements you should go to a specialized clinic that will put you on a treadmill but measure your oxygen levels and calories burn with separate machines. 

Phone and keys 

Put your phone and keys in the tray provided for the drinks bottle or on the dashboard. Make sure your things are secured so that they won’t fall from the vibration and get caught in the treadmill. Don’t put anything near the treadmill and keep it clear. If you don’t your phone will be crushed someday either by yourself or someone else.

Surrounding area 

Check out the surrounding area to be safe. 
  • Which side is the safest to jump off 
  • What is behind you 
  • Do a lot of people pass by 
If you own a home gym keep the area around the treadmill clear and try to not put it too close to a wall. You will be thankful to yourself when you do the first catapult exit. I have done a few. Some of them into a wall. One of them into a member. Fun to watch on  YouTube. Sucks when you are the bench catapulted. 

Program selection 

Once you have made yourself familiar with the surroundings and where to jump ship it is time to pick a program. You can usually pick:
  • Run for time 
  • Run for calorie
  • Run for distance 
  • Intervals 
  • Run the hills 
Run for time is one setting where you set a certain time to stay on the treadmill. What you need to watch out for is whether the machine adds warm-up and cool down to the time or calculates that out.
Run for calories is a version where you will run until you have burned a certain amount of calories. This is independent of time or space. 
When you run for the distance you will set a target distance of 3, 5 or 10 kilometers. It can be any distance you like. Once you hit the distance you are fine and get your statistics. This is a good program to track whether you are getting faster. 
Intervals are programs where you run for a certain small distance or time and then get a rest period. You usually do them in sets of four to 8. Intervals are the best option to push yourself to get faster which you then can test in a run for distance. 
Run the hills are programs that you can do on advanced treadmills. They will automatically play around with the speed and inclines to simulate running in the hills. This takes a lot of programming out on your end. 
Whatever program you pick, make it relevant to your goals and fitness levels. Beginners have a tendency to want too much too fast. Most important thing is that you are consistent. Avoid a crash and burn as this won't yield the desired results. 

Start slow 

To avoid catapults, start slow and end slow. Believe me, I have learned the hard way. 


Improvement from running comes in two different flavors which are speed and stamina. The best way to increase your speed is the interval runs. Try to run as fast as possible for two minutes followed by 1 minute of jogging. Rinse and repeat for 10 to 20 minutes. The important bit is to really push yourself in the intense part so that you get faster.
The best tool, in my opinion, to get better stamina is negative split runs. Pick a distance and a steady pace, usually, this is a long run. If you run a 10K you would do the first 5K at a normal pace for you. Then you try to run the second half at a slightly higher pace. The next time you do this run you repeat the same logic starting with the lower pace of the run before. This is not about improving fast, but applying this logic over a year consistently improving your average pace over distance.

How treadmill works to lose weight

Losing weight mainly depends on two factors. 
  • The number of calories you take in
  • The number of calories you burn 
Let’s look at both separately. 

The number of calories you burn 

Burning calories is the main goal in the gym when you are aiming for weight loss. The strategies for burning calories are: 
  • Strength training 
  • HIIT 
  • Cardio
Strength training is one of the activities in the gym which burns the most calories per second. A heavy deadlift or squat will needs a tremendous amount of energy to be completed. The challenge is that this does not last very long. Therefore strength training is better than doing nothing to lose weight, but not the best use of your time. You just don’t collect the calorie burn for long enough. 
High-intensity interval training or HIIT has gained a lot of popularity lately. Some forms of HIIT are Tabata, Crossfit, and intense spin classes. The goal is to push your body to the limit followed by rest. With this, you can get the body to bring calories even beyond the workout itself. While this works for losing weight it lets the injury risk skyrocket. Especially when the exercises are done for time and change often. High-Intensity interval training is more suited to someone who already has the experience and is fit. Not the best idea for beginners or when you have a lot of extra pounds to carry. 
Cardiovascular training or cardio, in short, is sustained training at the same pace for a longer period of time. If you are looking to but the most calories in total this is the best option. While it isn’t the best option in terms of calories per second or minute you will always come out with more calories burned overall for a 20 minute 5k run than a 100m sprint. The only challenge with cardio is that it can become very boring. So brace yourself and maybe listen to a podcast on the treadmill
Overall I have done all of these versions of the training. Strength training is great to build a tough body that doesn’t get easily sick and to gain weight in the form of muscle. Interval training is great to burn your recovery times up and to push your maximum speed up. Cardio for 20 to 40 minutes at a moderate pace is the best form of exercise to lose weight. 

The number of calories you take in

The more effective way if you want to lose weight. 
Technically the easiest way to lose weight is to stop eating. This is definitely not recommended as it will impact your health negatively and go hand in hand with psychological problems like eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. If you want to lose weight without exercising monitor your daily intake.  Many diets work with one of the following principles: 
  • Cutting out an entire food group 
  • Cutting out one of the macros
  • Portion control 
Cutting out an entire food group runs along being a vegan, vegetarian or having a gluten intolerance. The reasons for these diets can be ethical or medical. When you deprive yourself of an entire food group it usually takes a lot more effort to make up for the deficit. Meal planning becomes more important and shopping can turn into a nightmare in terms of availability and price. 
Cutting out a macronutrient runs along the lines of a low carb or low-fat diet. Here you shun certain macronutrients by controlling the labels in the fridge closely. While there are studies that these diets can be beneficial you run a risk that because of mislabeling and focusing too much on one thing you still eat unhealthily. Low-fat products often make up for the lack of taste by adding sugar. Low sugar products like to add fats and oils to make themselves more palatable. 
The most reliable way of dieting is portion control based on peer-reviewed studies. Rather than avoiding specific food groups or macronutrients you only eat a predetermined amount of food. This leaves you open to foods that are rich in fats and carbohydrates and is less of a strain on the brain. 
All diets work. Therefore the best diet is the one you can stick to. For many, the easiest diet to stick to is to control your portions. Best starting points for portion control are: 
  • Beer 
  • Chocolate 
  • Fizzy drinks 
  • Biscuits 

How treadmill test is done

A treadmill stress test is a test where you will be hooked up to electrodes which measure your heart rate. It is usually done in a hospital or sorts clinic under the supervision of doctors. 
While the electrodes are attached to you you will run on a treadmill with increasing speed and incline. The test is continued until you reach a predefined goal or the observers make an expected or unexpected observation which warrants to stop the test. 
Treadmill stress tests are done to Analyze heart rate and irregularities in patients with cardiovascular problems. Athletes are tested for maximum performance and how to improve. It depends on the individual and the context of the test. You normally would not do it in a regular gym or at home. 

Topics: Treadmill, Cardio, Marathon