How Long Should I Run on the Treadmill?

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You have purchased a nice shiny, new treadmill for use in your home, it’s all set up and ready to go. But are you wondering how long you should run on a treadmill?

When I first started using a treadmill, it was a question I asked. The upshot is, it depends on what your long-term goals are. You might want to lose weight, improve your fitness levels and health, or train for a race or a fun run.

Let’s take a look at some of these reasons and see if we can help you work out the best place to start.

Running on a treadmill to Lose Weight

Running is an excellent exercise for weight loss. Walking at 3.5 mph for 30 mins for a 155-pound person will burn 149 calories, whereas running for the same period of time for the same person at 5.2 mph will burn 335 calories

When you are new to exercise, or overweight, the general recommendation is to increase the speed of your treadmill in increments of between 5 and 10 percent of your weekly mileage.  

So, if you are running 5 times a week at 4 mph for 30 minutes each time, the distance covered is 10 miles. The following week, if you are able, you can increase the speed by 10 percent, which is 1 mph. 

Utilizing an interval method of walking and running on the treadmill is also a good way to begin. 

Start off with a gentle walking warm up at 1 mph for few minutes. When you are ready, increase your walking rate to about 3 mph and then alternate this with jogging or running at about 6.5 mph. 

This is a type of high intensity interval training (HIIT) which is good for weight loss. The following YouTube video will explain how it works.

As you get more comfortable, you can increase the incline or speed or follow one of the preset programs most machines have. Another feature present on a lot of treadmills is a calorie counter to help you keep track of how many calories you are burning.

If you're overweight and don't have a treadmill yet, then you check the following article which includes 5 good treadmills you can use as an overweight person to lose weight.

Running for General Health

Any physical activity can have many benefits for your health. According to the Center for Disease Control it can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.  It promotes healthy bones and muscles and improves your general mental health and moods.

As little as two and a half hours of moderate to intense exercise a week improves general health and increases your chances of living longer.

The good news is running is classed as an exercise which falls within the moderate to vigorous range. This level of exercise makes your heart pump faster. A good indication of reaching this level is being able to speak but not being able to sing a song.

If you are new to exercise, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Moderate exercise is generally safe for most people unless they have an underlying health condition.

Start out slowly, walking at about 3 mph and gradually increase the speed to about 4 - 5 mph, until you are running. Before you know it, you will be running for longer periods of time. 

The recommendation for vigorous activity is just 75 minutes a week. That can be broken down to 15 minutes of running, 5 days a week.

Race Training

You might have decided, once your fitness levels have increased, that you want to challenge yourself by completing a charity run. Or you could already be an accomplished runner with an upcoming half marathon.

Whichever the case, while a run outdoors is a good idea once a week, a treadmill is an excellent way to help prepare you for your race. It is also an excellent fallback when the weather or other circumstances prevent outdoor running.

Many machines will let you map a preset course to mimic the route you will take on your actual race or run. One such machine is the C990, from Nordictrac. It has an integrated iFit system which lets you run routes all around the world. You can check more advanced models here.

So, how long should you run on your treadmill when you are training for this type of goal? As an example, if your run is due to cover 6 miles, running at 6 mph it would take you 60 minutes to complete the course.

Build up your treadmill running to exceed that time. It will be easier on race-day if you have already run a longer distance in the lead up to the race.

Running for Muscle Strength and Fitness

To improve your overall fitness level, running at a moderate to vigorous pace is necessary. 

A moderate level would be running at about 4 mph for 150 minutes every week, vigorous maybe 6 mph or more for 75 minutes each week. 

Using a heart rate monitor will indicate your level of intensity. Moderate intensity means working at 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, and vigorous at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

You can work out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old your maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute (bpm). For moderate exercise at 50 percent to 70 percent, your heart rate should be kept between 80 and 112 bpm. 

Running exercises many muscles in your body. It can improve your core strength, as well as tone and strengthen the muscles in the legs, hips and shoulders.


We have looked at the ways that running on a treadmill can benefit you, and how long you should run on a treadmill.

Now you can hit that running board and get the maximum out of your running workout to achieve your personal goals.  Keep it interesting, vary your speeds and inclines, and utilize any tools your treadmill provides.

Remember, it’s your commitment to regularly put in the time on your treadmill that will get you where you want to be.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment below - we will be happy to hear from you.

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