What is the 12-3-30 workout?

a young woman walking on a treadmill at a gym

It’s time to lace up those walking shoes. Getty Images

If exercising more is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, then the viral 12-3-30 workout may be right up your alley. When my friend first told me she was doing the 12-3-30 workout, I had no idea what she was talking about. Somehow, despite my Peloton and yoga addiction, I hadn’t yet found my way to FitTok, the subsect of TikTok populated with workout hacks and fitness tips. But when two women I followed on Twitter mentioned the workout, I had to find out more about this viral challenge.

“I had been running but stopped last year and wanted a low impact way to build my stamina back up to start again,” says Dore Ann Zimmermann, a New Jersey-based food blogger. “It’s definitely a workout! You can expect to sweat and get your heart rate up.”

What is the 12-3-30 workout?

The 12-3-30 workout was created by influencer Lauren Giraldo in 2019 and gained traction after she shared how the fitness regimen helped her lose 30 pounds. The workout gained momentum in 2020 and has since gone viral with the hashtag #12330workout resulting in more than 131 million views on TikTok. It follows a pretty simply format:

  • Adjust your treadmill’s incline to 12%
  • Set your speed to 3 miles per hour
  • Walk for 30 minutes

“The first time [I tried the workout], I lasted about 8 minutes. The incline was no joke,” says writer and content director Maya Francis, who’s been doing 12-3-30 for a few weeks. “Since then I’ve been able to last the full 30 minutes. I also burn more calories walking on the incline for 30 minutes than I do walking flat for 45 minutes, or at least that’s what the treadmill has been saying.”

But go easy on yourself if the incline feels a bit too steep at the beginning.

“The 12% incline may be a bit ambitious for first-timers and you shouldn’t let that discourage you,” says Francis. “Also, I’m short, so that incline is a little steep for me because my strides are smaller. Knocking the incline down to 9% is better than falling off the treadmill. I just add a few extra minutes to compensate.”

Zimmerman took a similar approach in modifying the workout.

“Set your speed down below 3 miles per hour and work your way up,” she offers as advice to newbies. “I started at 2.5 and increased by .1 every day.”

Does 12-3-30 actually work?

“Anything that gets the body moving consistently is effective,” says Sonya Robinson, a Chicago-based National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. “This offers a low-impact, minimal equipment workout that any fitness level can do.”

Incline walking is especially great for working lower body muscles and your core. Walking also has cardiovascular health benefits, but try to minimize holding the rail of the treadmill to get the most of your workout, Robinson suggests.

How do you make the most out of the 12-3-30 workout?

For a well-rounded fitness routine, Robinson recommends pairing the 12-3-30 workout with other exercises, such as strength training, yoga or Pilates. Almost anything is welcome so long as you’re mixing it up.

“Your body will plateau if you’re only doing the same thing for weeks or months at a time,” she says. “There are so many added benefits with some form of resistance training, too. It is safe and low-impact and anyone can do it by adjusting the incline, speed, or duration to fit their fitness levels. Of course your nutrition has to be on point depending on your goal, too.”

But what if I don’t have a treadmill?

“You can do any cardio of your choice and always change the speed or resistance so the StairMaster, the elliptical, or a stationary bike works, too,” says Robinson. “It won’t be the exact same workout but again, any movement done consistently is what matters the most.”

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