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What treadmill speed helps me burn fat and lose weight?


Q: Hey Gale. Can you tell me what speed should I use on my treadmill in order to lose weight? Lisa C.

A: Hi Lisa! Great question, thanks for sending it my way.

The treadmill speed each person uses to gain fitness and lose weight is individual. I like to use five exercise zones based on perceived effort. You can gauge your effort based on your breathing. You can then link this perceived effort and your breathing to pace on the treadmill.

If you are just beginning to exercise or you are early in the exercise process, focus on the first two exercise zones listed below. What treadmill speed has you breathing and feeling like FatBurnE1 and FatBurnE2?

Fat-Burning Effort 1 (FatBurnE1): This is a very easy, steady rhythmic pace. Your breathing is gentle, yet above your non-exercise breathing rate.

Fat-Burning Effort 2 (FatBurnE2): Breathing rate and exercise pace increases slightly. Breathing is a little deeper, but still comfortable. Your sweat rate is more than FBE1, but holding a conversation is possible. You can sing the “Happy Birthday” song while doing this effort.

Fat-Burning Effort 3 (FatBurnE3): Breathing increases in tempo and depth. Conversation becomes more broken. You could sing the “Happy Birthday” song, but not without pauses in the wrong spots of the song in order to catch your breath.

Fat-Burning Effort 4 (FatBurnE4): Your breathing becomes hard; the pace is fast. If you were to sustain this pace for more than about two minutes, singing and conversation would come out in two or three word segments with plenty of breathing between the words. For those that are currently fit, this is the highest effort you could sustain for about an hour going at your current all-out-fast pace.

Fat-Burning Effort 5 (FatBurnE5): This is maximum effort for durations three minutes or less. There is a wide range of speeds here. For those that are fit, an all-out 20-second effort is a sprint. An all-out three-minute effort is not a sprint, but is significantly faster than FBE4.

Now that you have a couple of exercise zones and treadmill speeds, I suggest beginning with the following:

Day 1: Walk 20-30 minutes at FatBurnE1. Within this walk, speed up the treadmill slightly so you are walking faster for 10 seconds, then return to your regular FatBurnE1 speed. Repeat the speedy segments 4 to 6 times. (Tip: Make the speed increase just enough so it seems you’re in a hurry – not sprinting.) I call these Miracle IntervalsTM because they help you increase fitness and burn fat without extreme torture.

Day 2: Walk 20-30 minutes on a rolling course at FatBurnE1 to FatBurnE2. You can play with the treadmill elevations yourself or if your treadmill has programmed courses, use one of those. You may find that you have to slow the treadmill down on some of the uphill segments in order to stay within FatBurnE2. I expect this to happen on the longer hills, so don’t feel bad about slowing the treadmill down.

Day 3: More Miracle Intervals! Walk 20-30 minutes at FatBurnE1 to FatBurnE2. Within this walk, speed up the treadmill slightly so you are walking faster for 30 seconds, then return to your regular FatBurnE1 speed. Repeat the speedy segments 4 to 6 times. A little more speed than Day 1, but not too much.

As you gain fitness, we can play around with higher zones and different workouts.

Give this a try for two to three weeks and let me know how it goes. Once you gain some fitness, I can suggest more fun workout options to keep you burning fat and losing weight.