This Walking Workout Is Taking Over the Internet—But Is It Worth the Hype?

written by JOSIE SANTI
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

I’ll be honest: Even as a wellness editor, I’m not huge on TikTok wellness trends (except for these). But when it comes to the “12-3-30” workout routine that has taken social media by storm, my coworkers had so much to say, and I was curious, nay, flabbergasted. A treadmill workout? For only 30 minutes? Getting insane results? I had to know more.

“I do 12-3-30 as needed when I want a really good workout but also want to be watching Netflix while I’m doing it,” Beth said. “I hate running, so I was pleasantly surprised at how I felt during and after 12-3-30,” Andi agreed. “I’m breaking a sweat without the high intensity that comes from running.” Color me intrigued. After doing my research, I found that The Everygirl editors aren’t the only fans of the exercise routine. Read on for my deep dive into the increasingly popular 12-3-30 treadmill workout and whether or not it’s the worth the hype. 

What is it?

While the combination of numbers might seem intimidating, the name is all you need to know to do the workout: Set the treadmill to an incline of 12 and a speed of 3 miles per hour, and then walk for 30 minutes. Yep, that’s it. So why this combo and where did it come from? Social media influencer Lauren Giraldo first shared the routine on YouTube in 2019, but it went viral when she posted it on TikTok a year later. “I’m not a runner, and running on the treadmill was not working for me,” Giraldo told The TODAY show. “I started playing around with the settings, and at the time, my gym’s treadmill had 12 incline as the max. The three miles per hour felt right, like walking, and my grandma had always told me that 30 minutes of exercise a day was all you needed. That’s how the combination started.”

Is it worth the hype?

While Giraldo thanks the routine for her 30-pound weight loss, many other people love it for a variety of benefits and results (just Google the workout and you’ll see pages of TikToks, YouTube videos, and blog posts alike singing its praises). So what’s the deal? Since the workout centers on walking, you can already count it as a great low-impact option for keeping you healthy. According to Mayo Clinic, daily walking may help your general physical health because it can improve cardiovascular fitness, assist in maintaining a healthy weight, and strengthen your bones, muscles, and endurance. Regular walking has numerous mental health benefits as well, from improved energy to stress relief. 

So if you’re wondering if walking is enough to get in a good workout, the answer is undoubtedly yes (no incline or treadmill required). The 12-3-30 workout takes your daily walk up a notch by adding an intense amount of incline for added benefits (think of it like walking up a very steep hill for 30 minutes straight). Since there’s more gravity resistance, your muscles (particularly glutes and hamstrings) are working harder than when you’re on a flat surface. However, the most notable difference is that your heart works harder when walking on incline, so the low-impact workout fits in cardio without the high intensity or strain that often comes with running. 

The verdict:

Undoubtedly, the 12-3-30 routine is a great workout that many people love and feel great doing. What I believe makes 12-3-30 more enticing than other workouts that reap the same benefits is that people who feel intimidated by running or have no idea what to do on the treadmill can easily start, break a sweat, and get in a good workout, all within the time it takes to finish an episode of New Girl.

When you don’t feel like exercising, it’s easy to talk yourself into a 30-minute walk over an intense run, but the incline ensures that you’re fitting in a good burn and some cardio for those who are looking for a challenge. It’s a lower-impact, less intimidating, and friendlier version of those workouts that seem scary or challenging to most of us. In other words, #fitspo is no longer for the girls who spend two hours a day exercising, love to run for miles, or know exactly what to do at the gym. The 12-3-30 routine is really just proof that anyone can break a sweat and feel their best, even if all they have is 30 minutes and a TikTok account. 

Interested in trying for yourself?

What I personally loved about trying the 12-3-30 routine is that it is incredibly straightforward. You don’t need an app, fancy equipment, or to keep track of time (like interval training). So to try it for yourself, you know what to do: Hop on that treadmill, crank up your favorite playlist (or play Netflix, à la Beth), set the incline to 12, and get walking for 30 minutes. However, there are some things to keep in mind before trying.

Just like any new workout or wellness routine, it’s important to check with your doctor or trainer. Incline at level 12 is no joke, and you could strain your lower back, hamstrings, or calves if you don’t have proper form or don’t warm up your body properly ahead of time. Don’t dive immediately into 12-3-30. Instead, try an incline at a three to six range and see how long you can comfortably walk. From there, slowly build up until you can walk at a 12 incline without strain. 

If you can walk at 12 incline for 30 minutes with proper form and feel the good burn (muscle burn, working the cardiovascular system, etc.) without the bad (joints hurting or negative muscle strain), it can be a great practice to add to your workout routine. However, it should not be your only workout routine. 30 minutes of walking outdoors can also reap a wide range of benefits like stabilization when walking on uneven terrain or the health benefits that come from getting outside. Plus, you should be working multiple muscle groups and fitting in a variety of workouts to be your healthiest self. Talk to your doctor, try it out for yourself, and add it into your routine if it feels good for you.