Does Incline Walking Burn Belly Fat? (Science-Backed Facts)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: January 26, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Christiana Mikesch, CPT
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As a fitness trainer with over 25 years of experience, I've seen firsthand how ramping up cardio intensity, especially on treadmills, accelerates my clients' weight-loss journeys.

As many of them use treadmills in the gym, I usually suggest raising the incline to challenge their muscles and burn more calories.

And since I always strive to help them reach their weight loss goals faster, I set aside a few weeks to study the science of fat burning on inclines.

I also spoke with my colleagues at Total Shape to see if my research findings were consistent with their years of experience as sports experts.

Quick Summary

  • To burn belly fat effectively, using an inclined treadmill raises the heart rate more than walking on a flat surface, leading to increased fat loss.
  • An inclined treadmill simulates uphill walking, which not only aids in overall fat loss but also improves endurance and muscle strength.
  • Research published on PubMed demonstrates that a 1% incline on a treadmill significantly increases the energy cost of exercise, akin to the calorie burn experienced during outdoor running.
  • In my experience, combining incline walking with a balanced fitness routine enhances results and keeps workouts engaging and varied.

Can an Inclined Treadmill Help You Lose Fat?

A man walking on an Inclined Treadmill

An inclined treadmill can help you lose more fat, including in the belly area, because it simulates walking uphill, which raises your heart rate more than walking on a flat surface.

Research published in the EDP Science journal has found that an increased heart rate due to intense exercise correlates with the increased burning of calories per minute [1].

Another study published on PubMed reveals that even a 1% treadmill incline significantly increases exercise energy costs, akin to outdoor running, boosting calorie burn during workouts [2].

As per the ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute, while incline walking aids in overall fat loss, it does not specifically target belly fat, debunking the myth of spot reduction [3].

Yet, walking uphill during a treadmill workout at the same pace as regular walking may increase endurance, improve performance, and increase lean muscle mass.

And since muscle burns more calories than fat, you can hasten the process of losing body fat even while at rest, based on a Gait and Posture journal study [4].

How to Maximize the Use of Incline Treadmill for Fat Loss

A man using an inclined treadmill at the gym

Ramp up your incline treadmill workout's speed and duration, and keep your body aligned for optimal fat loss.

High-intensity sessions make your heart race and pump harder, reaching peak capacity.

So, hitting 65–80% of your max heart rate, as advised in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, gets you into the fat-burning heart rate zone [5].

In this mode, your metabolism speeds up, switching to fat as fuel.

When you don't hold onto the railings, you learn to balance and align your whole body, allowing you to build better posture while working out. 

Remember, clinging to the treadmill's handrails cuts calorie burning. Balancing without them builds posture and stamina, making workouts less tiring and more effective, says the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry [6].

Related Articles:

What Are the Other Benefits of Walking Uphill?

Uphill walking slashes heart disease risk and improves glucose control, states the Journal of Sports, Science, and Medicine [7].

The other notable benefits are:

  • It works your core muscles—external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis—boosting strength and stability.

"Incline walking can strengthen leg muscles while introducing less joint load or pressure to the knee."

- Henry Wang, Professor, Ball State University

  • Incline walking is a safer, low-impact option, ideal for older adults and those with joint issues.
  • It can brighten your mood, fend off depression, and strengthen your immune system.

Whether on a treadmill or outdoor trails, incline walking caters to your preference, offering diverse and enjoyable workouts that can be customized to fit your fitness goals, be they weight loss, endurance, or core strength.

Read More: How To Do Walkout Exercises

Are There Any Risks?

A man using an inclined treadmill on his workout

While the risks of incline walking are generally low, they're higher for those with joint, spine, or bone issues who might trip or fall [8].

Reflecting on my years as a university instructor, I advise anyone with physical limitations to consult a trainer or therapist before starting cardio exercises for fat loss.

For beginners, starting with a low incline and gradually increasing intensity ensures a safe and effective workout, while more advanced walkers can challenge themselves with steeper inclines for greater calorie burn.

Just don't push too hard or too fast—the risk of injury from using an incline increases if you overdo it.

From my own routine and advising clients at Taylor Made Fitness, I know treadmill workouts can become dull, so it's crucial to mix them up for continued interest and motivation.

FAQs

How Many Calories Can I Burn by Walking an Incline?

Walking on inclines can burn up to 500 calories daily, depending on your weight, walking speed, and degree of incline.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a 70-kg individual can burn about ten more calories per mile for every five percent increase in incline [9].

How Long Should I Walk on an Incline to Reduce Weight?

If you want to reduce weight, you should be able to walk on an incline for an hour every day. This can help you burn 3,500 calories per week.

According to research from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one pound of fat has about 3,500 calories. If you can burn some extra calories, you can burn more unwanted fat [10].

Can Walking Burn Fat?

Walking can help burn overall body fat, including belly fat, if you regularly stay active and are persistent. To burn more fat, walk while in a fasted state, increase your walking duration, and include other workouts.


References:

  1. https://www.bio-conferences.org/articles/bioconf/full_html/2020/10/bioconf_pes2020_00033/bioconf_pes2020_00033.html
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8887211/
  3. https://www.ace-pt.org/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636211002827
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19855335/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27494342/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5358029/
  8. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2016/07000/risks_of_treadmills_in_health_fitness_facilities_.7.aspx
  9. https://summitmd.com/pdf/pdf/090626_aps09_970.pdf
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035446/
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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