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12-3-30: how effective is the viral TikTok walking treadmill workout?

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Whether it’s exercise snacking or hunting out the most uplifting workouts for an endorphin boost (god knows, we all need one right now). Since lockdown I’ve become particularly obsessed with walking — and the transformational affect it can have on how I feel. There is something deeply meditative about switching off, listening to a podcast, and placing one foot in front of the other.

But if, like me, you don’t always know where to start with getting the most out of a treadmill session on your own, a viral TikTok workout doing the rounds offers a technique which is refreshingly simple.

What is the 12-3-30 treadmill workout?

Made popular by influencer Lauren Giraldo (@laurengiraldo), who first shared her treadmill routine in a YouTube video in 2019, it has since exploded on TikTok, where the hashtag #12330workout has now been viewed over 70 million times.

Its beauty lies in its simplicity. The workout involves walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes, to an incline of 12 per cent, and a speed of three miles per hour (or 4.8km on most British treadmills). In other words, it’s a power walk pace. Inclines often vary treadmill to treadmill, so if you’re unsure, set your incline to something that feels challenging, that will raise your heart rate but without needing to run.

Giraldo says this workout formula helped her cure her own “gymtimidation.” She’d often feel overwhelmed by the myriad machines at the gym. Now she does the 12-3-20 around five days a week and credits it for keeping her looking “snatched,” without dieting or counting calories.

The treadmill is your new best friend

/ Unsplash

So, who would benefit from this kind of workout? Walking is the best form of cardio for beginners, says online coach and celebrity trainer Aimee Victoria Long, particularly if you’re concerned about your joints.

“It’s super low impact, so the force going through your joints is low, but this form of cardio will likely get your heart rate up to a high enough level to burn sufficient calories and start to improve fitness levels,” she says. As you increase your strength and fitness “you can then think about moving to higher impact forms of exercise such as running and HIIT classes.” Though, she adds, someone at their peak in terms of fitness “may struggle to get their heart rate up to the desired level to really benefit from this form of training.”

If you love pounding the pavements or are partial to a HIIT class, this kind of low-impact workout could allow you to train more often without compromising your joints. “Just be careful not to get too obsessed with cardio,” Long warns. “I’d recommend complementing these sessions with two or three resistance sessions a week to help maintain lean muscle mass.”

There is no denying the powerful impact being out in nature for a walk can have on your mood, but the pacing element of the treadmill makes this a more efficient workout in many ways, she points out.

“The increased speed and incline will result in further calorie burn and increased cardiovascular fitness gains, while the incline is used to replicate walking up a hill so this will work your legs more than just walking on flat ground, and you get an element of muscle tone.”

“The obvious limitation with the 12-3-30 is that it’s hard to replicate without a treadmill – yes, you can go out and walk but trying to keep it to an incline and speed of three is near impossible,” Long adds.

Other ways to get a low-impact cardio hit

There are plenty of ways to get your cardio fill in a low-impact way. “I’d recommend the cross trainer, which tries to simulate running and involves little to no impact going through your joints,” Long says. “While it doesn’t have an incline option, you can use the effort level that makes it harder to move the platforms, so you can essentially replicate the incline. It’s just a little trickier setting an exact speed and incline as the treadmill.”

Other popular equipment-focused cardio workouts include the stairmaster, which mimics the action of walking up stairs and is great for firing up your glutes, and the versaclimber, which mimics the natural motion of climbing and gives a full-body blitz — neither of which put any strain on joints.

There’s also swimming, of course. “A lot of people don’t see swimming as a great form of cardio mainly because you can’t feel yourself sweat but, trust me, swimmers are up there with the fittest humans on the planet! If you really struggle with lower limb joint issues then swimming is a perfect low impact form of cardio for you to try.”

Want to try something new? Water jogging, or aqua jogging, offers all the benefits of running but with less impact on your body because you’re using a flotation belt while jogging in the deep end of the pool — it’s particularly great for anyone who is recovering from an injury but is still looking for a full-body workout.


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