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Sure, you know that it’s a good thing to get in a treadmill workout, but do you know why? Aside from the obvious “burning calories” or “it makes me feel good,” there are a number of treadmill benefits you stand to gain each time you step onto your machine.
Treadmills are a great way to include cardiovascular exercise at any fitness level, any time, regardless of weather and outdoor conditions. Here, we dive into eight reasons why incorporating indoor running into your regimen is a good idea.
1. Weight Loss
Perhaps one of the biggest health benefits of cardio exercise on a treadmill (with regularity) is that it can help you lose weight if that’s your goal. Walking or running at a moderate to vigorous pace can increase your heart rate, make you sweat, and burn some calories. Who’s not into that?
You’re probably aware that your nutrition choices are an important factor to your body composition. The most effective long-term strategy for weight loss is nutritionally-focused, relying on calorie restriction. However, one study found that cardiovascular exercise alone (without dietary restrictions) can actually lead to weight loss.
The study was conducted over the course of 10 months, with one group of overweight and obese participants completing aerobic exercise sessions five days a week and burning between 400 and 600 calories per session, while the control group did not exercise. All participants’ diets remained the same throughout the study. The exercise group lost weight, while the control group actually gained weight.
It’s best to focus on both food intake and exercise for long-term results.
2. Can Aid in Maintaining Bone Density
Your body undergoes changes and adaptations every time you exercise. You can cue in on some of these changes right away–the feeling of fatigued muscles or your lifted mood at the end of a workout. Some changes only start to take place when you train regularly and over long periods of time. One of these long-term effects is the body’s ability to maintain or increase bone density.
Every time your body endures weight-bearing activities like treadmill running or lifting weights, you apply strain to your joints and bones. Although strain sounds like a bad thing, it’s really not in this case. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, this type of weight-bearing tension stimulates small and dynamic tissues that live inside your bones. Treadmill walking is one way to trigger these tissues to generate new bone formation.
Keep in mind that you need more than just a handful of treadmill sessions to create a change in bone density. These changes occur over time. One study measured the effects of treadmill walking in relation to bone mineral status in a group of obese asthmatic patients over a six-month period. Patients were split into two groups; both received medical treatment, but only one group underwent six months of treadmill walking.
The results indicated that the group of people who used treadmills for walking increased bone mineral density (and the amount of calcium in the blood) more than individuals treated with medicine alone.
3. You Are in Control
Control is one of the biggest benefits of treadmill use. You can manipulate the speed and grade to your preference and ability.
If you’re new to treadmill workouts, take it one step at a time—quite literally. You can use similar progression principles that you might apply to your own strength training routine, meaning that you can go as slowly or as quickly as you need to. You can start with short five- to 10-minute sessions at lower intensities while you work your way up to longer, more intense bouts of cardio.
Ultimately, you’re the one who decides what type of work you do on the treadmill. Maybe longer bouts of steady-state walking or jogging is the perfect aerobic complement to your training. If increasing your endurance, performance, and oxygen consumption is important to you, the treadmill is a great place for sprinting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT running workouts and/or HIIT treadmill workouts.)
Another aspect of control is that you can (mostly) control the climate in your home, whereas running outside means you’re subject to Mother Nature.
4. Mental Health Benefits
Most studies on cardio exercise focus on physical health, function, and performance. The benefits of exercise for mental health are far less studied. But, you probably know that physical activity helps boost the production of a feel-good hormone called endorphins.
One study gathered data over the course of three years on 1.2 million Americans, aged 18 or older, to analyze the effects of exercise and self-reported bad mental health days. The study found that sociodemographic and physical characteristics were the same, individuals who exercised had 43% fewer days of self-reported poor mental health over the course of a month than individuals who did not exercise.
In fact, a moderate treadmill workout multiple times a week has the potential to improve how you feel cognitively, too.
According to this study, “aerobic fitness spares age-related loss of brain tissue during aging, and enhances functional aspects of higher-order regions involved in the control of cognition.”
If you need an additional mental health reason to include regular exercise in your routine, the sleep benefits might be your shot! You probably know from experience that the quality of your sleep can change your outlook on the day—whether you feel grumpy and sluggish or composed and alert. Exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm, which is your natural body clock that controls when you start to feel ready for bed and when you regain your energy. With enough sleep, you might be on your way to feeling a little less irritable.
5. Heart Health
Because the heart is made up of muscle tissue, it has to go through bouts of exercise to ensure it stays strong, just like the rest of your muscles. The treadmill is a great way to ensure your heart stays healthy with regular exercise, ranging from a quick walking pace to a more speedy run.
Regular aerobic exercise acclimates the heart to be more efficient at pumping blood to the whole body. It also stimulates the lungs and circulatory system. The American Heart Association suggests that getting regular physical activity can reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Cardio workouts are also recommended for managing high blood pressure. The AHA recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. When you break that up, it equates to 30 minutes, five days per week. If you need to, you can break that up further into 10- or 15-minute sessions at a time and still reap the benefits.
Here’s the kicker: The activity needs to range from moderate to vigorous to get all the heart-healthy benefits.
In a table from Harvard Health Publishing, a moderate walking pace is categorized by feeling like you’re in a bit of a hurry. You will still be able to talk in complete sentences but may need to take more breaths. When crossing over from a moderate to vigorous walking pace, you’re using more effort, might feel slightly breathless, and will have to speak in shorter phrases.
6. Muscle Building and Strength
The treadmill might not be the first place you turn when you think about building muscle. After all, cardio can’t really compete with barbells and dumbbells if you’re looking to get jacked. However, using a treadmill for running or walking does promote muscle building and strength, especially in people who are otherwise inactive.
One study found that “treadmill exercise is an important complementary exercise countermeasure to maintain [leg muscle] mass, strength, and endurance.” The study looked at people who were in extreme states of inactivity (for example, those who were put on bed rest). As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
7. Easy to Use
Treadmills are really a no-fuss option when it comes to cardio equipment. You don’t need to learn a new technique. No fancy shoes or additional equipment is required. Multiple people can use one treadmill easily. Simply hop on, press start, and put one foot in front of the other.
8. Fun (and Safe!) Extras Are Available
Let’s be honest, spending a large amount of time running can be, well, boring. However, there are treadmills out there that can actually make exercise a little more entertaining. Top machines like the ProForm Pro 9000 treadmill are equipped with fancy touchscreens and interactive programming that makes it almost seem like you’re running along the beach or through the mountains.
Even more affordable treadmills, like the Sole F63, come with built-in programs that help answer the age-old question: “What workout should I be doing?” You’ll find options for interval training, calorie burn, hill workouts, and more.
RELATED: Sole F63 Treadmill Review
You also might find that the benefits of running on a treadmill, as opposed to running outside, include the fun extras that come along with using exercise equipment for cardio. For example, there are treadmills with built-in fans to cool you down as you work out. Also, you can find machines with Bluetooth speakers to stream your own music or entertainment.
Lastly, many treadmills have safety features, such as an emergency stop button and handrails.
Treadmills can be a great investment when it comes to cardio equipment and overall fitness equipment for your home gym. They certainly take up some space, but they can be well worth it when you feel the increase in blood flow and those feel-good endorphins. Treadmills are beneficial for:
- Cardiovascular health at any age and fitness level
- Promoting bone density and muscle building for the leg muscles of beginners
- Incorporating cardio into your exercise routine regardless of the weather
- A great method for supporting healthy lifestyle changes
- Helping to lessen feelings of anxiety and depression
Treadmill Benefits FAQs
What does a treadmill do for the body?
With treadmill use incorporated into your exercise routine, you can keep your heart healthy in addition to building muscle and improving bone density. Cardio exercise can also support weight loss.
Is it good to use the treadmill every day?
Sure! The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week. Why not use a treadmill every day to complete at least a portion of that time? Before you start any exercise program, be sure to consult with your physician to ensure you’re taking a healthy approach based on your circumstances and goals.
Is the treadmill good for losing belly fat?
Aerobic exercise can help burn calories and thus can aid in losing overall body fat. Keep in mind, though, that you can’t spot treat fat loss.
What are the top 5 treadmills for the home?
The best treadmill for you is going to depend on your space, your fitness goals, and your budget. In our best treadmills guide, our top choices include:
Best Treadmill Overall: NordicTrack Commercial 1750
Best Treadmill Under $1000: Sole F63 Treadmill
Best Manual Treadmill: AssaultRunner Elite
Best Budget Treadmill: LifePro Pacer Folding Treadmill
Best Folding Treadmill: Echelon Fitness Stride
RELATED: Best Budget Treadmill
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