On the up and up: The exercise game changer

In baseball, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing radical strategies and statistics that flew in the face of conventional wisdom was the game changer in the Sony film Moneyball.
In walking, conventional wisdom usually means speed and/or distance rule the workout for maximum effect. So we see people out there hustling along, or putting in 24 miles pumping their arms, and you’re sure that if you’re not putting out that kind of limb-flailing expenditure, you’re not working out. Right?
Did you know you can slow down your pace, increase your incline, and burn more fat?
That’s been the game changer for my workout routine. But what about yours?
Movin’ on up
Moving a mass along a flat, level surface means you’re not doing any work– in physics or in your workout. Still, try telling that to the guy carrying the heavy moving boxes or the teenager carrying in the groceries. In fact, Sadi Carnot stated, in 1824, that:
work is “weight lifted through a height.” 
This applies to your exercise as well; namely legs walking on an incline versus a flat plane. Even when it feels like you’re about to pass out from exertion because you’re out with your arm-flailing speed walking cohort, you’re not lifting much weight through height. You’re mostly just scuttling along, bouncing, with some shimmy in your shake, but not much working your muscles. In fact, walking at an unsafe speed you could mean injuring yourself in the process.
In praise of the raise
By simply slowing your pace and setting your treadmill up a couple of degrees (or if you’re out in the neighborhood, locating a few neighborhood hills), you’re working your hamstrings, knees, calves, thighs and your glutes (the largest muscle group in the human body—and here I bet you thought it was your brain).
On an incline, even at a slower pace, you’re getting more bang for your buck, and you’re putting in work. How many more calories can you burn as a result of walking on an incline?
Let me geek out on you one more time and I’ll give you the goods (and in my best “Science Rules!” voice). The 155-pound person walking along a flat plane at a brisk pace of 4 miles per hour burns a total of 310 calories. Cross country hike, and suddenly you’re up to 422 calories per hour. Hike hills and your caloric expenditure jumps to 485 calories per hour.
Now get this. Walk 4 miles per hour on a 10% incline and you’ve suddenly jumped to 665 calories, over twice that of a flat plane. Jack your treadmill up to a 15% grade at 4 mph and you almost triple your caloric efforts at 861 calories per hour.
And that’s for walking. Let’s say you’re just starting your walking regimen at 3 mph. Even at that less harried pace, you can still see the jump in expenditure simply by raising your incline:
3 mph 0% grade = 220 calories burned per hour
3 mph 5% grade = 465 calories burned per hour
3 mph 10% grade = 525 calories burned per hour
3 mph 15% grade = 665 calories burned per hour
As a matter of fact, at 3 miles per hour, you burn more fat on a 5% grade than walking a 4 mile per hour on a flat grade.
Come hill or high water
Not bad, and until recently, I never knew that.
In fact, all these years I’d walked along a flat surface of my treadmill at twice the speed, burning less than had I gone with the incline. Thinking I was doing myself a favor on those flat surfaces, I hit the hard surfaces with speed, only to end up with shin splits, ankle pain and back pain.
Slowing things down and raising the bar (well, the front of the treadmill), meant I was able to burn more fat with less injury in the same amount of time. Talk about a game changer.
Now how about your exercise routine? I say it’s time to do some physics-based work …that is, if you’re so inclined.
 Moneyball, in theaters September 23rd. Based on a true story, starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Click Here For More

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Sony Pictures via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Sony Pictures.


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  1. The good news is: more calories, less time. The bad news is: I've been wasting a lot of time! Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Thanks for this info, I didn't know all this!!


  1. […] No matter how you journal your activity, it’s a neat way to celebrate the new you. I already logged my pool activities and incline tread milling (I allotted myself the highest level, 5, to match up with what my treadmill showed I did for my weight). More on why I walk on an incline. […]

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