Fitness Tips

‘I’m a Cardiologist, and Adding an Incline to a Walk Can Make Cardio Even More Effective Than a Flat-Road Run’

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/ microgen
Clocking your daily cardio doesn’t have to mean sprinting at maximum speed for 30 straight minutes. Brisk walking can be just as effective for boosting your heart health, with the added benefit of being far gentler on your joints. And if you want to add a little something more to those daily strolls, cardiologists suggest hopping on the treadmill and cranking up the incline.

“Walking is a fantastic cardio workout that is low impact, while at the same time, can be a heart-racing, high-intensity exercise when done properly,” Aaptiv master trainer John Thornhill previously told Well+Good. “Brisk walking, and more specifically, walking with incline…strengthens the muscles in your posterior chain, aka the muscles from your calves up to your back.”  This type of activity can help boost your stamina, and trigger the slow-twitch muscle fibers in your calves, hamstrings, and glutes, which helps with strengthen these areas.

As an added bonus, amping up the incline offers significant benefits to your heart and lungs. “When exercising on an incline, your heart rate will be much higher than if you were working out on a level surface—your heart is working harder and becomes stronger,” says Satjit Bhusri, MD, a board-certified cardiologist and founder of Upper East Side Cardiology. “It’s also a great way to lower your blood pressure, as your heart will strengthen over time to the point where it won’t need to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body. Your lungs will also work much harder than if you were on a level surface, and will become stronger and more conditioned.”

So what’s the “ideal” incline for making the most out of your uphill stride? Considering your heart rate should be at about 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (which you can calculate by subtracting your age from 220) during these types of workouts, Dr. Bhusri suggests walking at 3 mph at an incline between 16 and 18 percent. In general, “the greater the incline and the longer the period of time spent exercising on that incline, the faster you’ll see results.”

If your usual 30-minute stroll has started to feel too easy, simply up the incline for the same pace and same amount of time. With a treadmill incline walk, you’ll get more from your workout without actually having to spend a single extra minute sweating, and hiking up the speed is purely optional.

For an incline workout that will really get your heart racing, follow along with the video below. 

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