Can TikTok’s viral 30-minute walking workout actually improve your fitness?

The 12-3-30 treadmill workout has been trending for nearly two years. If you follow any popular fitness enthusiast on social media, it’s bound to have crossed your feed. Here we ask the experts if the workout deserves its viral status.

The fitness community is big on sharing. If one person discovers a technique that puts a new spin on an old workout, they’re bound to tell everyone they know who’ll do the same, and before you know it, we’re all getting in on the action. Case in point, the 12-3-30 treadmill workout. Walking on a treadmill isn’t new or revolutionary, but something about this seemingly easy exercise has the internet abuzz.

Popularised by Lauren Giraldo, a YouTube vlogger, the 12-3-30 method requires you to walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes, at a steep 12% incline, with your speed fixed at 3 miles per hour.

The workout is everything we’ve been told to hate about cardio – it’s steady-paced, it takes a while, and you’re risking boredom by repeating the same movement over and over. Despite that, Giraldo’s first YouTube video detailing the workout has over 1.2 million views, and if you search #12330 on TikTok, you’ll be adding to the 55.6 million people who’ve sought out tutorials and testimonials about it on the app.

So, we asked the experts if this slow and steady workout lives up to its viral status.

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Can the 12-3-30 workout improve your endurance?

Walking isn’t just a great excuse to get you out and up your dose of vitamin D, this simple exercise can also aid your fitness goals by increasing your body’s ability to endure more taxing workouts.

Kimberley Mitchell, a qualified PT from OriGym Centre of Excellence says, “This workout can certainly boost your cardiovascular endurance. The more you work out aerobically, such as walking at an incline, the more you will increase your endurance. Thus, over time you will find that you can workout for longer periods without fatiguing so quickly.”

Although treadmill workouts are often seen as the reserve of people new to fitness, Mitchell is certain that it’s a beneficial routine for those already training for upcoming events. She says that although “the 12-3-30 workout is beneficial for someone who is looking to make a positive impact on their health. It is also great for anybody who is training for an event that requires endurance, such as a race.” 

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What are the cardio benefits of the 12-3-30 workout?

Gruelling HIIT routines and intense interval sprints may seem like the standard we should all be aiming for with our cardio goals, but this seemingly humble walking workout boasts comparable fitness benefits whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

As for the science behind why such a simple workout can add so much to your overall health, Sarah Campus, founder of Ldn Mums Fitness says: “Regularly walking at a brisk pace offers a ton of health benefits, including strengthening your bones and muscles, boosting your balance and coordination, and preventing or managing conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes – by raising your heart rate.”

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When it comes to beginners, the expert explains, “you don’t need to do it everyday to see results; by doing it three to five times a week, you can really improve your cardiovascular fitness, and work your core and glutes, too.”

In the case of seasoned gym goers, Campus says, “For those who dread the treadmill – the incline produces an increased heart rate, as well as greater posterior chain activation in your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, as opposed to walking on a flat road. It is also a great workout for a recovery or cross-training day.”

Can the 12-3-30 workout can make you stronger

If you’re used to hopping on the treadmill for a light warm-up or cool-down outside of your ‘proper’ workout, get ready to see the underrated machine in a whole new light.

Sarah Campus says, “The incline produces an increased heart rate, as well as greater posterior chain activation. Meaning your glutes, quads, and hamstrings are engaged.”

For many beginners and people getting back into regular fitness regimes, approaching strength training equipment can be intimidating. But, if you’re already familiar with the treadmill, you can use this workout to build strength in your legs before approaching compound lower body exercises such as squats and deadlifts. 

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Can everyone do the 12-3-30 workout?

Despite how low-impact LISS exercises similar to this viral wonder are often prescribed for people recovering from injuries or living with joint pain, the 12-3-30 workout requires more consideration.

Claire Davis, founder of The Midlife Mentors, explains: “Someone shouldn’t go straight into doing this workout if they’re a complete beginner as it is quite vigorous for most. The gradient could mean it’s taxing on the lower back and you could strain the glutes, calves or hamstrings if you don’t warm up and fully prepare the body for this workout.”

For people who are dealing with existing mobility issues, she advises, “If joint issues are really bad – such as the knees and hips – although the treadmill is cushioned, the incline could aggravate these issues.”

However, if you have no pre-existing concerns, she advises: “Do this workout three times a week to begin with for the first two weeks. Then increase the frequency to four times a week in week three – with the caveat that this is the only cardiovascular training they’re doing.” 

Image: Getty / microgen

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