The last time you walked up hill, how did it feel? No matter how steep it was, chances are you could feel your lower body working extra hard to propel you upward. And once you reached the top, I bet you were a bit winded.
Before this pregnancy, I didn't think I would enjoy walking as much as I loved running. But since completing walking workouts regularly and intentionally, I've realized there are plenty of benefits to incline walking — which can easily be done and tracked on a treadmill.
Incline walking requires your body to work harder because you're fighting against gravity to move yourself upward. Because of this, the workout increases your heart rate (which is the reason you find yourself out of breath) and provides so many cardiovascular benefits. Incline walking has proven to increase the activation of the hip, knee, and ankle extensors more than walking or running on a flat surface.
Ready to learn more? Here's everything you need to know about incline walking. Did you know I also have a follow along incline walk on the platform? Click here to try it!
SO... WHAT IS INCLINE WALKING?
Incline walking refers to walking uphill at an incline rather than on flat ground. While this can be done on an actual hill, incline walking on a treadmill with the grade set to at least 3 percent is a safer option for your joints since you never have to switch directions and walk downhill. I prefer controlling the incline from a treadmill because walking downhill can creates a stressful environment for your knees. This is especially true if the ground is unstable and you hit the ground forcefully. In a study on knee proprioception (which is your body's ability to sense movement and positioning within muscles), participants reported impaired proprioception when walking downhill, which increases the risk of injury.
Incline walking on a treadmill also allows you to set the incline to the percentage of your choice and to continue to challenge yourself by increasing the incline over time. Keep scrolling for my go-to treadmill workout!
WHAT MUSCLES DOES INCLINE WALKING WORK?
Incline walking works your entire body, but it especially targets the lower-body muscle groups. The steeper the incline, the greater the muscular demand on the the posterior chain, which include the glutes, hamstring, and calves, as well your lats and erector spinae (which help keep you upright as the incline increases). Walking at an incline adds a natural resisting force of gravity to your workout, which activates the posterior chain more than walking on a level surface.
The upper body and core are also activated during incline walking. As you walk uphill, you need to lean forward slightly to keep your balance — which works your abdominals as you fight to stay upright. Pumping your arms as you incline walk brings the upper body into play. Swinging your arms helps keep you balanced while walking on an incline and also adds the momentum you need to summit that hill.
THE BENEFITS OF INCLINE WALKING
On its own, walking has so many benefits such as lowered stress, stronger joints, and reduced risk of heart disease. But incline walking comes with its own unique upsides that may make you consider taking a hike on the tread. Here are a few key benefits of adding incline treadmill walking to your workout routine.
Improves Heart Rate
Incline walking adds more intensity to your movement, causing your heart to work harder in the process. From a cardiovascular standpoint, incline work can increase your heart rate at a higher level than when flat, leading to more energy burned. And that increased heart rate pays off over time by increasing your cardiovascular endurance (how long you can perform any given cardio exercise), which also improves your heart health, lowers your risk of chronic disease, and makes it easier for you to tackle strenuous activities (such as lugging a suitcase through the airport).
Builds and Strengthens Muscles
When you're incline walking, your body is working against the added resistance of gravity — which means you're calling on your lower-body muscles (such as glutes, calves, and hamstrings) and core to reach the top of the hill. If you've ever felt like your muscles were on fire after climbing a steep hill, it's because these muscles are working hard to propel you uphill. But as a reminder: Incline walking shouldn't totally replace resistance training in your routine — it is simply an added benefit to the well-rounded fitness routine you have from the KE On Demand calendar ☺️.
WHO SHOULD TRY INCLINE WALKING?
Incline walking is a safe and effective workout that can benefit just about anyone. It's a great low-impact workout that can deliver a high-intensity and heart-racing workout depending on your speed and incline.
Because incline walking is a low impact workout, it's an ideal option for anyone with concerns about protecting their joints. Incline walking can be a more comfortable and safer form of exercise for those with osteoarthritis, joint injuries, and low bone density. That's because incline walking delivers a similar aerobic intensity to light running but with less stress on the bones and joints. I've been incline walking for the past 5 months and it's not going to stop once I give birth. I plan to keep these workouts in my regular routine!
READY TO TRY IT?
When incline walking, posture is extremely important to reap the benefits and avoid injury. Keep your posture upright, and try to avoid using the side bars so you don't put undue stress on your upper body and neck by leaning too far forward.
Pay attention to your footwork as well. Always ensure your feet are pointing straight ahead and you wear supportive sneakers. If your feet are out of alignment (think: if you're walking with your toes slightly outward or slightly inward), you may feel knee pain. If you experience discomfort, try wearing a running shoe with stabilization or a neutral sneaker to position your ankle and foot properly.
As with trying any new workout, starting slow and going at your own pace is key. Build up the duration, speed, and incline gradually — doing too much too soon can cause muscle strains or burnout.
Ready to start incline walking? Here are a few suggestions on how to incorporate incline walking into your workout routine.
Gradually increase your incline.
If you're new to incline walking, start slow and increase as you go. Try incline walking for 30 minutes, starting at a walking pace that feels comfortable and doesn't make you lose your breath while speaking. Begin at a 3 percent incline and add a 1 percent incline every three minutes until you reach a 12 percent incline. Lower your speed before lowering your incline if it starts to get challenging, and don't forget to cool down!
Swap your regular walk or run for an incline walk.
If you already incorporate the treadmill as part of your workout routine, try swapping your flat walk or run for an incline one to two times per week (this is my future plan!). If you're new to the treadmill, don't be afraid to test-drive the different features and get familiar with the machine. Try various types of incline workouts on a treadmill such as incline walking intervals, a steady incline, a steep incline, or a speed walking incline - the possibilities are endless!
Try this workout
Ready for my go-to workout? Put on any playlist, print this workout, and have some FUN. The speeds listed are just suggestions - especially during the second half where there are speed intervals. In between power walks on incline, you take those minutes as steadily as you need! I personally find this workout to have the benefits of the 12-3-30 workout, but without the boredom of setting and forgetting the treadmill. I need intervals and incline changes to make my workout go by quickly! When you try it, tag me and tell me everything 💕.