Just because you haven’t lost weight despite all the time you’ve spent walking on a treadmill doesn’t mean that you can’t change this outcome.
I’ve worked with many heavy women who wanted to lose large amounts of weight, and the treadmill is an inviting mode of exercise.
What I’ve also noticed, in my years of working out at many health clubs, is that almost every obese woman who uses a treadmill…HOLDS ONTO THE MACHINE.
This very act—holding onto the treadmill—is what’s preventing you from losing weight.
Now, if previous to using the machine, you were very sedentary, and then you decided to walk an hour on your new treadmill (or the one at the local gym) every day after work, replacing an hour of TV or computer time, then of course there will be some weight loss.
But have you noticed it only went so far? It stopped after 10 pounds, maybe only five?
Maybe you lost more, but it then halted, and you’ve continued walking that hour, day after day, month after month after month…and the scale has not budged, even though there’s a lot more weight to be lost.
What’s going on? You’re holding on. (If you’ve been swinging your arms and have hardly lost any weight, I’ll explain that soon.)
Obese women who hold onto a treadmill should expect very little weight loss from specifically this exercise.
If they’re also doing intense, compound strength training and sticking to a sensible diet, they’ll lose a good amount of weight.
But the time spent on a treadmill, holding on, will serve almost entirely to waste time or as a social platform to chat with other treadmill users. But don’t count it in as a weight loss station.
Why does holding onto a treadmill sabotage weight loss?
You use far fewer muscles. The act of holding on eliminates most of the workload from the core muscle group.
It also subtracts work from the legs. Don’t be fooled by the calorie display. If you stepped off the machine and let it run empty, the calorie display would continue showing rising numbers!
You may think that an hour a day on a treadmill, even if holding on, amounts to a lot of exercise, but just think about something for a moment:
How can something SO easy melt off excess weight? Yes, you put the time in, but time is meaningless if the workload is meaningless.
In order for the obese woman to force her body to burn fat for fuel, she must add an activity to her baseline that forces her body to adapt.
The activity must shock the body and force it to change. The activity must be easier for a slim body to perform than an obese body.
Holding onto a treadmill does not meet any of these criteria. Put aside all the science of human kinetics, kinetic chains, gait patterns, biomechanics and all the other mumbo-jumbo, and repeat to yourself these four simple words: YOU ARE HOLDING ON.
Say these words enough and you’ll soon have powerful insight into why this sabotages the weight loss plan.
What is the obese woman’s baseline?
That’s the level of activity your body is used to, that it’s adapted to and efficient at.
This includes the normal walking you do in day-to-day life (on the job, at stores, around the house).
If you step onto a treadmill, only to hold on while your feet glide along with the moving tread…you’ve just taken yourself a notch BELOW your baseline.
This is because your baseline consists of walking around without holding onto anything for support (on the job, at stores, around the house).
A downgrade in baseline! Repeat that: a downgrade in baseline activity!
You may still rationalize by thinking, “Well, at least it’s more activity than sitting in front of the TV.” Yes, it is, you’re correct. But is it enough to accomplish your weight loss goal? No, no, no.
Do you want to simply make comparisons to the energy expenditure of watching TV? Or do you want to lose a large amount of weight?
How can an obese woman lose weight with a treadmill?
Take your hands off the treadmill and walk at a pace that your body is not used to. This will put you ABOVE your baseline.
Your body will go, “Hey! What’s going on here?” It will be forced to adapt. Forced adaptation raises your body’s energy needs. Translation: weight loss!
Make the session challenging. You should be breathing heavily, and hot and sweaty. It should be uncomfortable. This will force adaptation. Your body will dip into fat stores to accommodate this new demand.
Keep your hands off the treadmill!
- Don’t go setting the incline at 15 percent and the speed at 3 mph, and then say you can’t walk without holding on.
- Settings like this are far beyond your capacity.
- Be realistic.
- Even 2 mph at 15 percent, sustained, is pretty stiff.
Obese women who haven’t lost weight with the treadmill must remove their hands from the machine.
If you’ve already been swinging your arms and have not lost much weight…increase the speed and/or incline to force more adaptation—but no matter what you do—swing your arms.
Hold on only to steady yourself while drinking water, taking heart rate or changing the settings.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.