How to Burn More Calories on a Treadmill

Calculator and tips

Senior woman on treadmill and caregiver near by

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Many people use a treadmill to burn calories, help with weight loss goals, and support cardio fitness. But how accurate is your method of estimating the calories burned on a treadmill? Can you trust the treadmill's display?

When tracking calories burned during a treadmill workout, there are many factors to consider, including your age and bodyweight and exercise intensity and speed.

Walking on a treadmill at 3.5mph (brisk pace) burns about 258 calories per hour if you weigh 150 pounds. Running on a treadmill at 6mph (a 10-minute mile pace) will burn approximately 680 calories per hour.

This article will discuss using a treadmill calorie calculator to find the estimated number of calories burned on the treadmill, plus other methods to track and increase calorie burn.

Factors Affecting Calorie Burn

Understanding all of the elements that can affect your calorie output is the first step in estimating the final "calories burned" number at the close of your workout. While the treadmill dashboard may display a calorie burn total, it's important to note that this is an approximate number.

Every person is different, and a number of factors come into play when it comes to how many calories the body burns during exercise and when at rest.


The smoother your motion and the more trained you are in it, the fewer calories you will burn over a given distance. Some speeds are more natural and efficient for your body, and this will vary from person to person. At higher speeds, running can be more efficient than walking fast or using a racewalking technique.

Exercise Intensity

The harder your heart and lungs work, the more calories you burn. Exercise intensity can be measured by your heart rate or pulse. You can also use a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale—a simple method of assigning a number to how hard you feel that you are working.

Holding Onto the Handrails

You will likely burn fewer calories if you hold onto the rails while walking or running on the treadmill. Treadmill calorie counters don't account for holding handrails, so if you are gripping the rails, the total you get is likely higher than what you are truly burning.

Motorized Treadmills

The moving belt and smooth surface reduce your calories burned per mile compared with non-treadmill walking or running. The difference in calorie burn can be made up by having at least a 1% incline on the treadmill.

Speed and Incline Settings

If you cover the same distance in a shorter amount of time, you'll burn more calories due to the higher intensity. And when you work out at a higher intensity, you'll also burn more calories for a longer period of time after exercise.

Walking or running uphill burns more calories than going downhill or on a level surface. You will burn an extra 3 to 5 calories per minute depending on the incline of your treadmill.

Body Weight

Your muscles must use calories to move your body mass across a mile or kilometer. Bodyweight is the most crucial factor. The more you weigh, the more calories burned per mile or kilometer.


As you age, your daily caloric intake naturally decreases. Your metabolism also naturally slows with age, which means the younger you are, the more calories you burn throughout the day, during both exercise and rest. Age is significant in calculating your calories burned on a treadmill, as the younger you are, the more likely you are to burn more.


Your sex also plays a role in the number of calories you burn during your treadmill session. Scientific research has found that men and women burn calories at different rates, primarily due to body composition. Men tend to carry more muscle than fat, which means they burn higher calories during a workout and while at rest.

Calorie Burn Estimates

Many treadmills have a calorie display. You can improve its accuracy by entering your weight (including your clothing and shoes). Remember, the more weight, the more calories burned. If the machine doesn't ask for weight, the calorie data it displays will very likely be inaccurate.

If the treadmill asks only for weight, it estimates your calorie burn based on your speed, distance, incline, and entered weight. It is not accounting for other factors like your stride length or exercise intensity.

Calorie Calculator

It can be helpful to use multiple tools to accurately estimate how many calories you're burning during a workout. While the treadmill display can give you a general estimate of how many calories you're burning, consult a calorie calculator (like the one below) for an additional calculation.

Using multiple calculators can be especially helpful if the treadmill you're using does not allow you to enter your weight to give a more precise count.

Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor or fitness tracker, along with accurate weight and speed info, should produce the best estimate of treadmill calories burned. Using a heart rate monitor with a chest strap connected to the treadmill will factor exercise intensity into the calorie estimate. Some treadmills even can sync to wireless heart rate monitors.

The result may or may not be more accurate than just wearing a heart rate monitor that estimates your calories burned by your age, weight, and heart rate. But using these health and fitness tools should be more accurate than just basing calories burned on weight, speed, and distance.

Keep in mind that there are several methods for measuring your heart rate, and some are more accurate than others. Heart rate monitors with a chest strap tend to be the most accurate. Wrist-worn monitors can also be accurate, although their accuracy can depend on how the wristband is worn. Other methods, such as grips on exercise equipment or finger clips, may be less accurate.

You can play with treadmill speed and intensity to check the accuracy of your heart rate monitor or calorie estimator. Do a workout using your normal pace and incline and note calories burned. Then change a variable, such as the incline. If you increase the workload and your heart rate or calorie burn estimate does not increase, your monitor is inaccurate.

Fitness Tracker

Fitness wearables can be an effective health tool, but they may not always have the most accurate heart rate reading and calorie burn count. Put to an accuracy test, fitness trackers have been found to overestimate calories burned anywhere from 16% to 40%.

Remember this when using your fitness wearable to track calories, and compare that count to your treadmill display and calorie calculator to get your best estimate of calories burned.

Whether you rely on the treadmill calculator or a separate activity calculator, heart rate monitor, or fitness tracker, keep in mind that all of these tools still offer only approximate calories calculations.

How to Burn More Calories on a Treadmill

While calories burned vary, there are ways to increase your overall workout energy expenditure. Try practicing interval training on the treadmill by increasing your speed or incline for short bursts of time, followed by a recovery period with a walk on a flat setting.

Increasing your workout time can also help burn more calories, but make sure to follow the 10% Rule: Increase the distance you're walking or running on the treadmill by no more than 10% from week to week. Using this rule will ensure you're not overextending your muscles and can instead build endurance over time.

A Word From Verywell

No matter the source of your calorie-burn figure, it is best to take it as an estimate. Use the tools you have to measure calorie output, but remember that it is just an approximate calculation, so tune in to your body to understand your rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Carefully and gradually change your workout intensity to avoid overexertion and injury.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Jones AM, Doust JH. A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running. J Sports Sci. 1996;14(4):321-7. doi:10.1080/02640419608727717

  3. Devries MC. Sex-based differences in endurance exercise muscle metabolism: impact on exercise and nutritional strategies to optimize health and performance in women. Exp Physiol. 2016;101(2):243-249. doi:10.1113/ep085369

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.