Although walking is often overlooked as physical exercise, it has proved to be an effective way to build stamina and burn extra calories. However, walking alone will take more time to give you significant results than other high-intensity exercises like running and lifting weights. That’s why many fitness experts will advise you to make your walking exercise more intense by adopting more challenging walking styles like incline walking.
If it’s your first time hearing about incline walking, this article will tell you everything you need to know about it.
What Is Incline Walking?
Just like the name suggests, incline walking is simply walking on an incline. This includes walking on an inclined treadmill in the gym or walking uphill. The main objective of incline walking is to make the exercise more intense, forcing your body to work harder so that it can burn more calories.
Walking or running on a horizontal level decreases the intensity of the exercise, making it difficult for your body to burn enough calories. That’s because the flat surface doesn’t create enough resistance and challenge level for your body to work hard. Remember that your body needs to push and pull itself to make the exercise more intense.
Without this resistance, you won’t burn enough calories or build muscle during the workout. So, if you’re walking outdoors, look for a hilly area to add more intensity to the exercise for better results. If you’re working out in the gym, put your treadmill in an incline position to make the walk more challenging. Fortunately, most treadmills feature multiple incline settings to help you achieve the amount of gradient you need.
5 Benefits of Incline Walking
As noted above, incline walking is meant to increase the intensity of the exercise, forcing your body to work harder and burn more calories. You can reap many benefits from walking on an inclined treadmill or uphill. Here are the main benefits of incline walking.
1. Faster Weight Loss
For you to lose more weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume every day. To burn more calories through exercise, you have to make the exercise highly intensive. Since walking on a flat surface isn’t intensive enough to make your body work harder, you have to incline the surface you’re walking on.
In general, you’re supposed to keep your heart rate at around 70 percent of your maximum heart rate during the workout to burn more calories. However, make sure your heart rate doesn’t go beyond 90 percent because it can lead to serious health complications like a heart attack or stroke. Working out at a meager heart rate won’t help you burn more calories, no matter how long you take to exercise.
So, if you want to burn more calories and lose enough weight by walking, you have to make the walks hard and highly intensive to raise your heart to the required level. Make sure you track your heart rate when walking to know if the exercise is effective. In addition to inclining your treadmill and tracking your heart rate, you should also remain consistent in your exercises to lose enough weight.
2. Burning More Calories
As discussed above, the whole essence of engaging in physical exercises like incline walking is to burn more calories so that your body doesn’t have to store unused calories as fat. Several factors determine the number of calories your body burns when exercising, including the type of exercise you’re performing and the intensity.
Your body weight also determines how many calories you can burn during exercise. The heavier you’re, the more calories you can burn because you have extra weight to move around. Lighter people have to engage in more intense exercises to be able to burn the same amount of calories as heavier people. You can measure the intensity of an exercise using your heart rate. The higher your heart rate the higher the intensity of the exercise.
A higher-intensity exercise allows your body to burn more calories because your heart and lungs have to work harder, pushing your metabolism higher. Setting your treadmill in an inclined position makes walking on it harder, causing your body to work harder and burn more calories. But you have to avoid the handrails when walking on the treadmill because they reduce the intensity of the working, reducing the number of calories your body burns.
3. Fewer Injuries
Incline walking on a treadmill reduces the risk of injuries that usually occur when you’re walking or running outdoors. Running or walking on an uneven ground puts your knees, hips, and ankles at risk of getting injured because it puts the joints under immense stress. A treadmill’s inclined position, on the other hand, increases the intensity of the exercise without putting too much stress on your joints.
The treadmill also offers your calves and Achilles tendons the necessary stretch to deal with foot problems such as plantar fasciitis. Treadmill incline minimizes the impact on your legs when walking thus reducing the risk of injuries while increasing the power of the exercise.
4. Building More Muscles
Walking involves the use of your lower body muscles and core, especially when you aren’t holding on to anything like handrails. By inclining the treadmill, you increase the demand on the posterior chain muscles like hamstrings, calves, and glutes, causing them to grow and become stronger. When you strengthen your glutes, you reduce the overdependence of hamstrings and low-back muscles thus decreasing the risk of developing low-back pain and hamstring injuries.
Your glutes should be among the strongest muscles in your body because they’re the main muscles that allow your hips to extend easily when you’re walking or running. So, if you don’t activate your glutes fully, or if they are too weak, your hips will rely on the small muscles in your lower back and hamstrings to extend, causing lower back pain and hamstring strains.
5. Improved Fitness and Heart Health
Aside from burning more calories and losing weight, incline walking also improves your overall body fitness as well as your cardiovascular health. It’s one of the most effective aerobic exercises necessary for maintaining maximum fitness and minimizing the risk of heart-related complications. It also keeps away other serious health problems like hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
This exercise also helps you to meet the physical activity recommendations for adults by the center for disease control and prevention (CDC), which encourage adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity workout every week.
Drawbacks of Incline Walking
Although incline walking is good for your overall fitness and health, it has its fair share of drawbacks that you should be aware of before you start engaging in it. However, its benefits surpass the drawbacks. Here are the main side effects to consider when performing incline walking.
1. Excess Stress on the Muscles
Walking on an incline adds tension to your front and rear lower gel muscles, including the personals, soleus, gastrocnemius, and tibialis anterior muscles. This results in great discomfort in the muscles during and after the exercise. But the stress on the muscles eases up as your body adapts to the exercise.
2. Risk of Getting Shin Splits
Some people get shin splits when walking on an incline. The good news is that these splits can be treated with simple remedies like icing, resting, and stretching. But you should see a physician immediately if the pain persists.
3. Bad for People with Low Back or Knee Pain
Incline walking isn’t suitable for people with low back or knee pain because it puts more stress on the lower back and knees, which could exacerbate the pain. Therefore, you shouldn’t walk on an incline that’s too steep if you have back problems. Seek your doctor’s opinion before you start your incline walking exercise.
Incline Walking vs. Running
Walking and running are common exercises that people perform during their daily workout routines. They’re simple and don’t require professional training or expensive equipment to perform. But if you want to perform the two exercises indoors, you need to install a treadmill or enroll in a gym that has one.
However, some people prefer to do incline walking instead of running on a flat treadmill. Some fitness experts claim that incline walking helps your body to burn more calories than running on a flat treadmill. According to recent studies, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn about 111 calories after running one mile on a flat surface in 10 minutes, while the same person will burn 93 calories after walking one mile on a flat surface in 15 minutes.
But the same person will burn 219 calories after walking on an inclined treadmill for 15 minutes. Studies have also revealed that your running speed doesn’t have any significant effect on your body’s ability to burn calories. In fact, it’s better to run a longer distance than to run faster if you’re trying to burn more calories.
Generally, your body will burn more calories when you exercise for a long period. So, incline walking is better than running because it takes longer and burns fat better than running. But this doesn’t imply that running won’t help you to burn fat. Your body will still burn a significant amount of fat when running, but not as much as it’ll burn when walking on an incline for a long period.
Additionally, incline walking reduces the risk of getting injuries like ankle sprains because it reduces the impact that your leg joints have to absorb during the exercise. Running, on the other hand, increase this risk because it involves jumping up and down, which creates a more powerful impact when your feet land on the ground. It’s also easy to twist your ankle when running.
8 Tips for Incline Walking
Although there are numerous benefits of incline walking, you’ll only realize them if you do it right. Here are some effective tips on how to do incline walking to help you achieve your desired results.
1. Always Warm Up
Incline walking is like walking uphill, which puts a lot of pressure on your muscles, which can easily lead to injuries, especially if you just jump right into it without warming up. It’s important to warm up with a slow walk on a flat surface for about five minutes before you increase the gradient.
2. Take Shorter Steps
When you’re walking on a steep slope, you need to shorten your steps so that you can easily lift your body the incline. Even a bike needs to shift to a new gear to go uphill.
3. Consistent Step-Rate
Since you’re taking shorter steps, you shouldn’t go as far with every step. So, maintain your step rate or quicken it. Taking shorter, quicker steps will help you to go up the incline at the same pace throughout the exercise.
4. Lean Slightly Forward
Naturally, you’ll find yourself leaning into the incline, but the incline should start at the ankles, not the waist. But you shouldn’t lean too much into the incline or backward because it will affect your balance and stability on the treadmill. Your torso should remain over your hips throughout the walk.
5. Avoid Raising Your Knees Too High
Don’t lift your knees too high when walking on an incline because they’ll increase the impact when your feet land on the treadmill. Shortening your step rate will help you to keep your knees low.
6. Avoid Over-Exertion
As you go up the incline, your heart rate will go up thus increasing your breathing and exertion levels. If the exertion levels are too high, you’ll have difficulty breathing, which can cause other serious complications. So, if you feel like you’re running out of breath, slow down.
7. Monitor Your Heart Rate
Your heart rate will let you know if the exercise is effective. For you to burn enough calories, you have to increase your heart rate to between 70 and 80 percent. Fortunately, you can now buy a simple heart rate monitor to read your heart rate when exercising.
8. Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
Although incline walking is an effective weight loss exercise, it’s not for everyone. For instance, you shouldn’t walk on a steep incline if you have a back or knee problem. That’s why you should talk to your doctor about your suitability for this exercise before you include it in your workout routine.