Incline Walking vs Running

When it comes to getting in shape, many people think that running is the only option. But did you know that incline walking can provide many of the same benefits as running – without the impact? In this article, we’ll compare incline walking and running to see which one is the better choice for you.

Bonus: we discuss outdoor walking and running in-depth too. 

Stay tuned below!

Incline Treadmill Walking vs Running

Let’s compare walking on a treadmill at an incline and running. We’ll go through the most important parts:

  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
  • Calorie burn
  • Weight loss
  • Belly fat burn

Advantages of Incline Walking vs Running

walking or running uphill?

Let’s face it: running is hard. It’s tough on your joints, and it can be challenging to keep up the motivation to keep going. 

That’s where incline treadmill walking comes in. 

Unlike running, walking is a low-impact activity that is easy on your joints. And with the incline feature on most treadmills, you can still get a great workout. Studies have shown that incline treadmill walking can be just as effective as running in improving cardio fitness. 

Incline treadmill walking has some definite advantages over running, especially if you’re looking to get in shape without putting too much stress on your joints: 

  • The steeper incline simulates walking up a hill, which means you’ll burn more calories than walking while also toning your leg muscles. 
  • Incline walking is easier on your knees and ankles than running, making it a good option for people trying to avoid injury. 
  • Incline walking is a great way to mix up your workouts and add variety to your cardio routine. 

So next time you’re feeling bored on the treadmill, try cranking up the incline and getting your heart rate up with some incline walking!

Disadvantages of Incline Walking vs Running

While walking at an incline may seem like a more gentle way to get your heart rate up, there are some disadvantages to this form of exercise: 

  • Walking at an incline burns fewer calories per hour. After you build up enough strength, incline walking becomes a matter of endurance. At this point, you need to add a weighted vest to increase your calorie burn again.
  • Walking at an incline can be monotonous, especially if you’re stuck on a treadmill. By comparison, running on the treadmill can be more fun if you’re doing sprints.

So, if you’re looking for a more challenging workout that will help you burn more calories and get your heart pumping, you’re better off sticking to running.

Calorie Burn

is incline walking better than running?

Here’s what the cold numbers tell us: 

  • Walking at a steep incline for an hour burns 440 calories if you’re 160 pounds. 
  • Running at 6 miles an hour burns 720 calories if you’re 160 pounds.

However, studies show that a 1% incline increase helps burn 12% more calories than simply walking. So, if you can’t withstand the pressure on your joints that running exerts, incline walking is a worthwhile alternative.

Also, you may not currently have the endurance and pulmonary capacity to run at 6 miles per hour; you may only do 2-3 mph. In this case, that 1% increase in incline is more than manageable.

Read more: How Long Does It Take to Walk 2 Miles?

Weight Loss

Based on the data above, you probably think that running is the best way to lose weight. After all, it’s a high-impact activity that gets your heart rate up, so it must be more effective than walking, right?


When it comes to sustained weight loss, incline walking is more effective than running. Here’s why: 

When you walk uphill, you’re working against gravity, which means your muscles have to work harder. As a result, you burn more calories per minute than you would if you were walking on flat ground, plus building more muscle

Related: How Long To Walk on a Treadmill to Lose Weight?

That muscle will accelerate your metabolic rate so that you can burn more calories even after your workout is done. 

Besides, running is exhausting.

So after a 30-minute run, you’re tempted to be idle for the rest of the day. And research shows that being generally active burns more calories than working out.


  • If you’re planning to lose 10-20 pounds quickly for an upcoming event, you can do that successfully by running every other day for an hour at 6 mph.
  • If your goal is steady weight loss, include incline walking in your routine.

Belly Fat Burn

The answer may surprise you. Although running burns more calories per minute than walking, incline walking is more effective for burning fat because: 

  • You’re engaging your core more
  • You’re building lean muscle that burns fat

In addition, incline walking is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, making it a good choice for those who are overweight or have joint pain. 

Incline Walking on a Treadmill vs Uphill Walking Outdoors 

walking uphill vs incline walking on a treadmill

Incline walking on the treadmill isn’t your only option; you can also try uphill walking outside. Let’s see how these activities compare:

The Pros

Let’s face it: sometimes, the weather isn’t conducive to a nice walk outdoors. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip your walking altogether! 

Treadmills offer a great alternative, and incline walking has some advantages over its outdoor counterpart:

  • You don’t have to worry about uneven terrain or obstacles in your way. 
  • The treadmill can be set to any incline and program you desire so that you can tailor your workout.
  • Walking on a treadmill is often less impactful on your joints than walking on concrete or asphalt. 

The Cons

Unfortunately, there are some definite disadvantages to incline walking on a treadmill that you should be aware of before deciding. 

  • Treadmill walking can be incredibly dull (for some). There’s nothing to look at but the wall in front of you, and the monotony can quickly become tiresome. In contrast, uphill walking outdoors provides a much more scenic view and can be much more enjoyable. However, many people may favor this monotony that helps them get out of their heads.
  • Incline walking on a treadmill can be dangerous if you’re not careful. If you fall off, you could seriously injure yourself. There’s little risk of falling off and hurting yourself when walking outdoors. 

Calorie Burn

walking at an incline compared to running

There’s nothing like a nature hike to get your heart rate up and those endorphins flowing. But if you’re looking to break a sweat, you might be better off pulling out your old friend, the treadmill. While both activities will help you burn calories, incline walking on a treadmill tends to be more effective. 

  • When you walk outdoors, uneven terrain can make maintaining a consistent pace and incline difficult. As a result, you may not burn as many calories as you would on a treadmill. 
  • In addition, variations in weather conditions can also make it harder to get a good workout outdoors. 

So if you’re looking for a calorie-busting workout, you might want to stick with the treadmill.

Weight Loss

If incline walking on a treadmill burns more calories than uphill walking outdoors, it will help you lose more weight.

Unless you have stress working against you.

Cortisol is proven to hinder weight loss. However, being outdoors decreases cortisol. Andrew Huberman, an American neuroscientist and associate professor at Stanford, explains in-depth how natural light stimulates endorphins and dopamine. 

Basically, these happiness and reward hormones give you energy and decrease stress.

The direct consequence is that walking outdoors can be more motivating, and it can also decrease your cortisol production. Therefore, you can avoid weight loss plateaus. By comparison, walking at an incline on a treadmill feels much like a rat race.

Belly Fat Burn

A higher incline stimulates your heart rate more so that you can burn more belly fat. However, some treadmills don’t have gradients as high as some natural steep slopes. Besides, research shows that working out in cool air (aka outside) can accelerate your fat burn rate.


  • These steep slopes can prove tough on your knees, and:
  • Your fitness level may not allow you to tackle them efficiently.

Running on a Treadmill vs Running Outdoors 

running on a treadmill vs running outdoors

Now, let’s see how running on a treadmill compares to running outside:

The Pros

For the uninitiated, treadmill running can seem like a drag. You’re confined to a single spot, going nowhere fast. The scenery never changes, and you’re stuck inside with all the other gym rats. 

But treadmill running does have its advantages:

  • You can control the climate, so if it’s raining or 100 degrees outside, you can still get your run in without having to brave the elements. 
  • You don’t have to worry about traffic or pedestrians getting in your way. 
  • It’s safer to listen to music or watch a show while running indoors.
  • You can spruce up your workouts with different programs and targeted exercises. That helps with motivation, and it gives you better control over reaching your goals.

The Cons

On the downside, treadmill running can be repetitive and boring. You’re constantly staring at the same view, and unless you’re watching TV or listening to music, you may find your mind wandering. Also, because the belt moves underneath you, it’s easy to slack off and not push yourself as hard as you would if you were outdoors. 

If you’re looking for a true endurance test, stick to good old-fashioned outdoor running. But remember, you need to have your head in the game – otherwise, you’ll find excuses not to do it.

Calorie Burn

Running on a treadmill is often perceived as more accessible than running outdoors. After all, you don’t have to deal with uneven terrain or inclement weather. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s more effective for calorie burn. 

Studies have shown that outdoor runs can result in 5% more calories being burned due to the added resistance from wind resistance. Additionally, many people find that running outdoors is more motivating than running on a treadmill due to the change of scenery. 

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference.

If you enjoy the challenges of running outdoors, then, by all means, go for it! But if you find that treadmill runs are more your speed, there’s no need to feel guilty about it. Either way, you’re sure to see some great results.

Weight Loss

running vs incline walking for weight loss

If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s no need to hit the streets – the treadmill will do just fine. Running on a treadmill may even be better for weight loss than running outdoors. 

Yes, we know; we just said that running outdoors burns 5% more calories.

But here’s the deal: 

  • You can control the speed and incline of the treadmill to tailor your workout to your needs. That means you can follow your weight loss goal with laser-like precision.
  • You’re less likely to be distracted by your surroundings and, thus, take fewer breaks. 
  • Running on the pavement or cement can damage your knees pretty badly.
  • Therefore, those 5% extra calories become moot if you’re on 2-week bed rest every month.

Of course, there are some things that you can only get by running outdoors – the fresh air, the scenery, and the feeling of wind in your hair (though some may argue that the last one is more of a drawback than a benefit). 

But if your goal is to lose weight, the treadmill is probably your best bet.

Belly Fat Burn

Running indoors is safer on your joints, accelerates weight loss, and helps you find a custom fat-burn program. As such, you can follow this belly fat goal precisely, monitoring your progress and evaluating your results.

Related: Does Running on a Treadmill Burn Fat?

However, running outdoors has its benefits too. 

Studies have shown that running in green spaces can lower stress levels and improve mental well-being. And stress affects visceral fat. So if you’re looking to burn some calories and reduce stress, a scenic outdoor run might be just what the doctor ordered.

Which one should you choose, then?

  • If you’re feeling stressed and in a rut but don’t have any knee problems – run outside. 
  • If you’re very meticulous and single-minded about your progress, choose a treadmill.

Wrap Up

After reading this article, the conclusion should be: choose the type of workout that fits your personality and preexisting conditions. Some people love the convenience of a treadmill, and others adore being able to monitor every little stat. Conversely, others love clearing their head outside.

People also have different preferences for walking and running.

The key is to alternate your workouts to keep your body guessing. This strategy will increase your dopamine levels, decrease stress, and accelerate your metabolism.

And ultimately, that’s what helps you reach your goals.

Mary D. Brown

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