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Thirty to 60 minutes of brisk walking per day is just what the doctor ordered.
The American Heart Association recommends adults exercise a minimum of 30 minutes per day, five days per week at a moderate pace. However, that information is a bit vague when trying to dial in the ideal speed and exercise duration when first stepping onto the treadmill. Knowing the optimal starting point for you can help prevent injuries caused by overexertion. The key is starting at a pace that's comfortable and gradually working up the intensity and workout duration to boost the health benefits of walking.
Walking outdoors is an effective way to stay in shape and get some fresh air, but treadmills let you exercise no matter what the weather is. Treadmills also offer cushioned decks that provide a lower-impact ride compared to walking outdoors on pavement -- important if you have sore joints. It's also much easier to track your distance traveled, duration and calories burned. For beginners, treadmills are the ideal way to start exercising; people of all fitness levels can walk briskly on a treadmill and reap the health benefits, including cardiovascular health, weight loss and lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Setting Your Treadmill to вЂњBriskвЂќ Speed
A brisk, moderate pace on a treadmill can vary from person to person, but it generally falls between 3 and 4.5 miles per hour. Start on the lower end of this scale and slowly work your way up to faster walking speeds every couple weeks. If your treadmill uses METs, or metabolic equivalents, to define intensity level, aim for between 3 and 6 METs to reach a brisk pace. Treadmills with heart rate grips also allow you to track exercise intensity based on your heart rate. Your maximum heart rate, or MHR, is a level you should never exceed, and it's determined by subtracting your age from 220. As a beginner, try to increase your heart rate while you're walking to about 50 percent of your MHR. For example, a 40-year-old with an MHR of 180 beats per minute, or BPM, would shoot for an average exercise heart rate of 90 BPM.
Start With 15 Minutes
Start slow. There's no need to do a complete 60-minute workout your first time on the treadmill. Going too long, too soon can strain your joints and possibly cause you to quit right from the start. Walk for 15 minutes per workout the first week. Increase this to 20 minutes the following week. Continue this pattern for the first month until you're at the AHA recommended 30 minutes of exercise per workout. Walk on the treadmill up to five times per week in the beginning. Set aside time each day to work out, such as at lunch or right before work. After a month or two of easing into your daily walking routine, it will become a habit, which means it will become an important part of your daily routine -- a great thing for your health.
Walking Uphill May Help
A major benefit of treadmills is the ability to increase the incline of the treadmill deck. Increasing the incline increases the intensity of workout. In other words, you can walk more slowly on an increased incline and get the same or greater health benefit compared to walking faster on a flat surface. Additionally, walking on an incline may help reduce the risk of muscle injuries or joint pain. A 2011 study conducted by Colorado State University researchers found that subjects walking at about 1.7 mph at a 6 percent incline were able to reduce risk of injury on the treadmill and still get the same health benefit compared to walking at twice the speed on a flat treadmill.