What is the 12-3-30 Workout? The Walking Treadmill Workout for Weight Loss

Walking is having a great moment. Spurred on by its accessibility and mental health benefits, many of us have rediscovered our love for the most basic movements during the pandemic. And while indoor lockdowns and restrictions are slowly becoming a thing of the past, it seems walking is here to stay.
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So it's not surprising that one woman's treadmill routine that quickly went viral in 2019 continues to make the rounds on social media. The fact that it helped her lose 30 pounds doesn't hurt either.
Social media personality Lauren Giraldo originally posted her "12-3-30 workout" — which she credits with helping her feel less intimidated by the gym and finally getting healthy — on YouTube in 2019 , but the workout continues to gain followers as a viral TikTok video posted in November 2020 received more than 2.7 million likes and 12.6 million views.
"I'm not a runner and running on the treadmill didn't work for me," Giraldo told TODAY via email. "I started playing around with the settings, and back then my gym's treadmill had a max incline of 12. The three mph felt right, like walking, and my grandma had always told me that 30 minutes of exercise a day were everything you needed. That's how the combination started.”
Anyone who has ever walked an incline on a treadmill knows that it's a lot harder than it looks. "It was definitely a struggle in the beginning and it took me a few months to really enjoy the training," Giraldo said. “I have found that just focusing on myself for 30 minutes a day is not only good for my body but also for my mentality. Now I look forward to it every morning.”
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Apparently, it's worked for others too: In April 2021, Giraldo posted a video on TikTok with before-and-after pictures of other women who lost weight through their workouts. Since then, TikTok users have continued to post impressive before and after results, claiming that the workout not only helped them lose weight but also toned their core and legs.
“I felt like I ran like crazy 5 miles afterwards!! I hate running so I'm glad I found this," commented one user. "My shirt gets soaked when I do 12-3-30. It's not soggy if I just walk with no incline. My sweat speaks for itself,” said another.
While it sounds promising for those of us looking to get the best possible workout on the hamster wheel in the shortest amount of time, it also begs the question: is it safe? And what should we know before we try?
Related: The Taylor Swift Treadmill Strut (T.S.T.S.) is a treadmill-walking workout developed by Allie Bennett that went viral on TikTok.
What is the "12-3-30" workout?
Giraldo's training is guided by three settings on the treadmill:
Incline: 12
speed: 3
Time: 30 minutes
According to Giraldo's TikTok video, she does the workout about five times a week and it helped her lose 30 pounds. "I've obviously noticed the changes in my body, but I've been happiest with the changes I've felt mentally," she said. "I felt proud of myself every day that I got on the treadmill and had 30 minutes to myself. I feel fulfilled every time I do it.”
For Giraldo, it served another important purpose: to get her comfortable foot at the gym. “The thing about 12-3-30 is that it has made the gym so much less of a scary place. I now feel confident in the gym and sometimes incorporate weights and other exercises into my workouts," she said.
Related: Users post videos of themselves doing the exercise, claiming that they see weight loss and toning results.
Is Lauren Giraldo's 12-3-30 workout safe?
At first Giraldo didn't manage the full 30 minutes. “I definitely had to work up to the 30 minutes. I couldn't get through without losing my breath and started taking a break after the 10 or 15 minute mark," she said.
dr Dennis Cardone, osteopathic sports medicine specialist and chief of primary care sports medicine at NYU Langone Health, told TODAY that this is not a workout you should jump into right away.
"When someone works that hard with this workout and they're in their 20s, young and healthy and they're struggling, you can see that it's been a pretty significant workout. It's just too much too soon and there should be a rest day," says Cardone.
That's not to say there can't be benefits to adding an incline to your workout. “It certainly adds more stress to a workout in the sense that people train more in less time; the muscles are working harder,” Cardone said.
But, he adds, the risks might outweigh the benefits when it comes to adding a significant incline to your workout.
"The problem is that people don't think that walking is a stress factor. You're thinking, "What's the big deal with an incline? I'm just walking." But it's really a big stressor: lower back, hamstring, hamstring, knee, plantar fascia... those are the areas where we see some significant injuries associated with incline on a treadmill," he said. "As a general observation, any time someone starts or changes a workout or adds something like an incline, they must follow the rule of doing it slowly or else they are at significant risk of an overuse injury."
Related: Turn your walk from a leisurely stroll into an intense workout by adding intervals.
Would you like to try? Follow these guidelines
“[Giraldo] did well but most people never make it there because they get an overuse injury and they get taken out of the game. It's a great goal, but it's just not realistic for the majority of the population," Cardone said. "If you just do one activity - we don't just have to beat that one up - but whatever activity you do, if you do it day in and day out, it's just an injury setup.
So instead of lifting the incline, here's the safe way to try Giraldo's workout:
Don't let the treadmill fool you: “People think the treadmill is so safe; It's not outdoors, it's a soft, forgiving surface. But it's not that different from walking up a hill; You don't protect yourself much more when you're on a treadmill than when you're on the street," Cardone warned. “Thirty minutes of walking up a hill is pretty tough when you think about it. People are feeling a little too confident about the treadmill.”
Adjust the numbers to pick you up where you are. “Don't lean so fast, maybe don't even start at 30 minutes; 3 mph is reasonable, but maybe slow down your exercise duration and tend to work your way up to it,” Cardone suggested. “Start flat on a treadmill and do 0-3-30. Once comfortable, start the incline, don't go to 12 right away. Over 3 weeks, slowly start increasing your incline, maybe 10-20 percent per week.”
If you are new to fitness, start on level ground. "When someone is outdoors and starts their exercise program, whether it's walking, jogging or interval training, don't look for a hill," Cardone said. Add a few hills to your workout, but don't look for hills at the beginning of a program.
Gradually increase the incline: "Increase your incline slowly, start at the lowest setting and it's a gradual increase, like any other workout in terms of increasing mileage or intensity," Cardone said. "This workout starts with a 12-degree incline, so I'd say go in 4-degree intervals. So gradually increase it over a period of 3 weeks to get to those 12 degrees.”
Don't do it every day. "Almost whatever the routine, the general rule is that there should be a rest day, or at least alternated with another activity, to try to avoid overuse injuries," Cardone said. “I wouldn't discourage people from doing any activity most days of the week, just not the same activity. Give yourself a rest day doing an alternative activity, maybe that's the elliptical trainer, a bike, or the pool, whatever you have available."
Supplement with strength and stretch. The hunched posture when walking uphill puts stress on your lower back, Achilles tendon, calf muscles, plantar fascia and hamstring muscles, Cardone said. "These are persistent issues and people don't want these types of injuries, once they happen they're difficult to treat," he said. He suggested doing core-strengthening exercises and specifically stretching those areas to reduce your risk of injury while walking or running.
Consider slightly lower impact. If you're just getting into fitness, Cardone recommends starting with lower-impact workouts. “Biking, elliptical, swimming, cross-training activities are even safer. These are great activities to start an exercise routine and build your cardiovascular endurance; You're not putting a lot of force, it's a little more forgiving on the joints and also the muscle tendons," he said. "So maybe two or three days a week on the treadmill and the other days these other activities; that will keep people out of trouble.”
bottom line
Even if you follow these guidelines, exercise should be alternated with other, lesser-impact activities at most every other day.
To get the benefits you expect from any exercise -- whether it's weight loss, toning, or overall health -- the key is finding a program that you can stick to, Cardone said. That means not only does it have to be safe so you don't get sidelined by injury, but "it has to be something they enjoy and if they do just one activity they're going to burn out, not just physically but mentally," he said.
Lauren Giraldo
American actress, film producer and YouTuber

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