12-3-30 Workout Benefits and How To

Chances are you’ve come across the “12-3-30 workout” on social media, or maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of someone doing it at your local gym. Created by social media influencer Lauren Giraldo, what’s now known as the 12-3-30 workout method has swept across the internet and made its way onto treadmills everywhere, with fans of this specific exercise format praising its ability to boost endurance, get them sweaty, and increase cardiovascular fitness, among many other benefits, without raising the treadmill speed above 3 miles per hour. We asked fitness experts for the scoop on how to do this workout, its health benefits, and whether it’s safe for anyone to add to their exercise rotation.

What Is the 12-3-30 Workout?

Health and beauty influencer Lauren Giraldo introduced TikTok to her 12-3-30 workout in 2020. It’s a walking treadmill workout where you set the machine at an incline of 12 percent, leave the speed at 3 mph, and walk—or really, hike—for 30 minutes. 

12-3-30 is categorized as a low-intensity steady state cardio workout (LISS), says Charlee Atkins, certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of Le Sweat. But there’s nothing easy about this low-impact, high-rigor workout. Walking uphill at that speed and for that long requires a lot of endurance and will really get your heart rate up. 

Trust me. The first few times I attempted this trendy workout setting, I found myself more out of breath than I’ve ever had on a run. This is probably because “it can be classified as a full body workout,” says Lauren Leavell, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and owner of online fitness company Leavell Up. “For most people, it’s getting them into a cardio zone for their workout. So they’re getting in their steps and cardio, which is beneficial for your full body in more ways than one.” 

The reason for the workout’s undeniable popularity, however, lies in its accessibility. “For a lot of folks who don’t really have a plan, there’s also the fact that it gives them a clear road map of what to do for 30 minutes,” Leavell says.

While the concept itself isn’t revolutionary, walking uphill can provide some pretty amazing health benefits. 

Is 12-3-30 Good for You?

While the 12-3-30 workout builds muscle definition and improves balance, most of the benefits come from the simple fact that it raises your heart rate. It’s a great way to increase endorphins, enhance physical endurance, and improve cardiovascular health. “It’s cardio, so it’s good for the lungs and heart,” says Atkins. 

“Additionally, it’s going to recruit some different muscles and challenge your body in a different way because of that steep incline,” says Alexis Shoope, PT, DPT, OCS, orthopedic and pelvic floor physical therapist, and owner of PIONE3R Physical Therapy in Houston. “When you’re taking that step forward, you’re going to be working with the hip flexors, the quads, and then the ankle dorsiflexors. As your leg extends back, “you’re going to be dealing with the glutes, the hamstrings, and the calves.” 

The exercise also has some pretty amazing benefits for pelvic floor strength. Walking at an incline can help stretch the pelvic floor muscles, Shoope says. “We often see people carry a lot of tension or tightness, and therefore have almost overactive pelvic floor muscles. So [incline walking] is a fun way to promote some lengthening through those muscles.” 

Ultimately, the best part about 12-3-30 is the fact that people are finding a type of movement they enjoy, feel empowered by, and want to do. “Probably the biggest benefit is just the fact that it’s promoting movement,” Shoope says. “Especially in the United States, so many people need to be encouraged to move more.” Though 12-3-30 has become an ultra-trendy workout, its virality has encouraged generations of Americans to break a sweat. For this reason alone, 12-3-30 has really energized the fitness industry. 

Is 12-3-30 the Right Workout for Me?

Though 12-3-30 may be low impact, meaning it doesn’t involve jumping or running, the workout’s steep incline has its pros and cons, depending on your exercise level and health circumstances. “The problem that I have with the 12-3-30 workout is that it kind of asserts itself as a beginner workout or like an ‘everybody’ workout—and that’s absolutely not the case,” Leavell says.

“I wouldn’t say there’s anything inherently dangerous about 12-3-30,” Shoope says. “The problem that I see as a physical therapist is people doing too much too fast.” For example, if you’re someone who leads a very sedentary lifestyle with very little physical activity, then 12-3-30 may be a shock to the system (as any new type of vigorous exercise would be). It’s never wise to take your lifestyle from one extreme to the other.

If someone who is not usually active were to set the incline up to 12 percent and the speed to 3 mph, it would likely “overuse or overload” their muscles, Shoope says, which could result in pain within the calves, hip flexors, and, most commonly, the foot as a symptom of Plantar Fasciitis: the inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue in the foot. “A lot of times this comes with an increase in walking or being on your feet more than normal,” she adds. 

Folks with pre-existing medical conditions should also take necessary precautions. “If you’re fresh off of some kind of knee injury, have any kind of ankle sprain or strain, or experience plantar fasciitis or anything going on with your feet, then this can cause a lot of strain on those muscles and tendons,” Leavell says. “You might want to run these by professionals that you’re working with.” 

Put simply, if you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your body pre-12-3-30, you could run the risk of feeling worse post-workout. “If someone’s already dealing with pain that they know is uncomfortable while walking, it probably wouldn’t be wise to jump to something that’s more intense,” Shoope says. 

In order to get all of the feel-good benefits from the exercise, consult your doctor if you’re having any reservations. “As with any workout or exercise program, check with your physician before starting,” Atkins agrees. “If you experience pain or discomfort during the workout, it may be best to stop the workout or decrease the intensity.” 

Start slow and modify, then gradually progress to the 12-3-30 settings as you start getting stronger—here’s how to do that.

How Can I Start?

Though 12-3-30 is nothing more than an inclined walk, it’s a pretty intense workout. 12-3-30 is all about getting your steps in and your heart rate up, so tailor the speed and incline to your body.

“If you haven’t been walking at all, maybe start walking on flat ground first,” Leavell says. In short: Lower the incline (12 percent is really steep!) and see if you can walk for 30 minutes at 3 mph at 0, 1, or 2 percent incline. 

“Your [version of] 12-3-30 can be any variation of incline, speed, and duration,” Atkins says. “You can change any of the variables to design a workout that works for you. For starters, I would recommend trying a seven-minute walk on an incline at your desired speed, and if you feel like you can go beyond seven minutes, shoot for 10, 15, 20, and so on. The biggest factor is setting the treadmill at a speed and incline that you’re comfortable with.”

The truth is, there’s no big secret to mastering the 12-3-30 workout aside from practicing consistency and listening to your body. Whether you choose to break a sweat on your local running or hiking trail or on a treadmill at the gym, remember that the benefits of 12-3-30 can be achieved virtually anywhere—and in a way that makes your body feel good.

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