December 29, 2021

What Is the 12-3-30 Workout? And Does It Work?

The treadmill fitness program offers plenty of health benefits

Two people running on a treadmill at the gym.

Unlocking a higher level of fitness might come down to this simple code: 12-3-30. Those three numbers set the basic ground rules for a treadmill workout that’s gathering plenty of breathless buzz on TikTok.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The 12-3-30 walking program works like this:

  • Raise your treadmill’s incline level to 12%.
  • Dial up the pace to 3 mph (miles per hour).
  • Walk for 30 minutes.

Easy to follow, right? Now the bigger question: Is it worth trying? To answer that, let’s turn to exercise physiologist Katie Lawton, MEd.

Origins of the 12-3-30 workout

Credit for the 12-3-30 program goes to Lauren Giraldo, a social media sensation with a sizeable band of followers. She first shared the workout on YouTube in 2019. It exploded in popularity as a TikTok trend a year later.

Giraldo says the workout helped her shed 30 pounds and transform her body. She posted before and after pics as evidence, too.

Millions of views later, the workout qualifies as a runaway success.

How to start the 12-3-30 treadmill program

Let’s begin with this basic fact: Don’t expect the 12-3-30 workout to be a walk in the park. (Well, unless it’s a very hilly park.) “It’s definitely on the harder side,” says Lawton. “That’s a steep incline — and it’ll really feel like it’s over 30 minutes.”

So if you’re using this program as a first step to establish an exercise routine, take it slowly. Tweak the incline, pace and treadmill time numbers to meet your fitness level.

Advertisement

“Maybe start by walking at a flat incline for 30 minutes to see if that’s obtainable,” says Lawton. “Or put the incline at 5% to see how you do. Maybe slow down the pace or go for less time. See what your body can tolerate and build from there.”

Basically, use the 12-3-30 target as your goal or general framework: “You don’t have to start there,” says Lawton. “Make adjustments based on your health, your fitness and how you’re feeling.”

(It’s worth noting that Giraldo, who is in her early 20s, admitted to early struggles with the program. She said it took her time to go the full 30 minutes and get comfortable doing the workout.)

Training tips to boost your workout

If you’re going to try the 12-3-30 workout, keep these suggestions in mind.

  1. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes that provide proper support for your feet. (Learn how to pick out the right pair from a physical therapist.)
  2. Try to avoid holding onto the treadmill while walking, as it reduces the benefits of the workout. “If you feel like you need to hang on, you probably should consider changing the incline or speed,” notes Lawton.
  3. Use good form, with a bit of a lean to your body as you stride. “You want a really good arm swing, too. Use the momentum of your arms to help propel yourself forward,” says Lawton.

Learn how to get the most out of your treadmill workout.

Can the 12-3-30 program help you lose weight?

Given the treadmill incline level, this workout routine will torch calories like a five-alarm fire.

The reason why is simple: Walking uphill makes your body work harder on every single step, pushing up the cardio intensity, says Lawton. The calorie burn at a 12% incline is nearly double what it would be walking on a flat surface.

Advertisement

Building the 12-3-30 program into your exercise routine five days a week would add up to 150 minutes of heart-pounding activity. That could go a long way toward dialing back the number popping up on the bathroom scale.

(The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 200 to 300 minutes of exercise per week for weight loss.)

However, Lawton cautions about basing a weight-loss and fitness plan entirely on the 12-3-30 workout. She suggests balancing the cardio with some strength training to work different muscles.

Eating healthy is also key if you’re looking to shed pounds. “You cannot out-exercise a bad diet,” notes Lawton.

Is the 12-3-30 workout worth trying?

As with many things borne through social media, there’s a gimmicky feel to the 12-3-30 plan. The workout, however, offers true fitness benefits — especially if combined with other healthy lifestyle habits.

“Whatever gets people to do more exercise is great,” says Lawton. “Just watch what you’re doing and take it slow when you start.”

Related Articles

Older couple talk while leisurely walk across a bridge
February 29, 2024
Can You Exercise After a Heart Attack?

Absolutely! In fact, in many ways, exercise is key to recovery

female doing a push up while looking at laptop
February 20, 2024
Here’s How To Do a Good, Basic Push-up

The exercise — which you’ve probably been doing since grade school — can be intimidating, but proper form can help

two people doing jumping jacks on pavement outside
February 19, 2024
How Exercise Can Help Boost Your Memory

Cardio is great for improving cognition, but strength and balance training are just as important

Adult male using rowing machine at gym
February 16, 2024
Why Exercise Matters for Your Heart Health

Exercise lowers risk for heart conditions, improves mental health and reduces visceral fat that can compromise your organs

Parent and two children preforming downward dog in yoga
February 13, 2024
Yoga for Kids: Benefits and 17 Poses and Exercises To Get Started

Kids’ yoga can help kiddos become more aware of their physical, mental and emotional selves

Close up of hands holding heart rate wearable watch monitor and their phone
February 12, 2024
Next Time You Exercise, Consider Wearing a Heart Rate Monitor

This technology can benefit your workouts by helping you hit your target heart rate, resulting in better overall health and wellness

personal trainer working with person on treadmill at gym
February 9, 2024
How To Find a Personal Trainer — What To Look For

Ask questions, get referrals and consider if someone is a good fit for you and your fitness goals

person doing stair lunges at home
January 25, 2024
Workout Motivation: Do’s and Don’ts To Help You Actually Stick to Your New Exercise Routine

Expect a few bumps in the road, work out for the right reasons and give yourself some credit

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad