Skip to main content

Is the 12-3-30 workout trend one worth trying? Experts weigh in

It started simply enough. A social media influencer shared an exercise routine she devised to get over her boredom with treadmills. Now it’s a viral fitness sensation that’s sweeping the nation.

It even has its own catchy name: 12-3-30. It may look a little like a calendar date, but we’re not celebrating the holidays in the Great Depression. It stands for a group of treadmill settings: 12% incline at 3 miles per hour for 30 minutes. And many people are turning to this workout to achieve their weight loss goals.

Related Videos

When viral celebrity Lauren Giraldo, who has millions of combined subscribers across social media channels, created the workout, she probably didn’t expect it to make her an overnight fitness guru. But therein may exist the problem with 12-3-30: While Giraldo deserves commendation for creating the routine and improving her health, the fact remains that she is not a trained fitness or health care professional. And those who are professionals in these fields say it can present serious injury risks for the unprepared.

So what do the experts say?

Check with your health care professional before starting any new exercise routine, and listen to the voices of trained authorities. Here, we’ve compiled a raft of expert input from a range of professionals to analyze the pros and cons of 12-3-30.

Beginners beware

According to experts, the workout’s half-hour duration can be deceiving, as can the notion that this is “just walking.” To put it another way, this isn’t the right workout for people who are jumping off the couch and straight into the gym.

Why? Much of it has to do with the steep 12-degree incline.

Beau Burgau, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, told Shape that the 12-3-30 workout is actually pretty challenging. It turns out that walking those steep steps can take a toll:

Walking on an incline can be very taxing on your body. And doing it on a level-12 incline for 30 minutes straight is a lot. You have to make sure that you’re building up to such intensity of order to avoid injury and overstraining your joints and muscles … You should be able to walk on flat ground for 30 minutes straight before adding any kind of incline on the treadmill. Once you’ve mastered that and it starts to feel easy, you can progress, but conservatively.

If you’re new to regular exercise or restarting after some time away, consider taking a more methodical approach to the treadmill — think of it as your 1-1-30 — before ramping up (literally) to the leg-busting demands of steeper incline.

Benefits of the 12-3-30

For those who can complete the 12-3-30 workout, there are several benefits.

Given the current state of the world, it can be a tempting option for spicing up the same old treadmill routine you’ve been doing by yourself at the gym or in the basement.

Vincent Miceli, co-founder and CEO of Verb, a fitness and personal-improvement expert, is a firsthand success story of a program similar to 12-3-30. As it happens, the workout fad has been around in some form for some time.

[The] fact that 12-3-30 has caught steam is amazing but not at all surprising. The concept is built upon old-school bodybuilding workouts. I successfully overcame obesity and other health issues both mentally and physically by using this very method. I’d put on a hoodie, get on a treadmill for 45-60 minutes at an incline and start walking. I lost 100 pounds doing 11-3.5-45/60.  As a gym owner, coach, and expert in habits, this is hands down the most effective way I have seen to lose real weight … The science behind this type of workout is focused on heart rate, ease, and safety. [It’s] otherwise known as ‘steady-state cardio.’ It’s not sexy, it’s rarely fun. But I know firsthand that it works.

Incline walking is not only effective but relatively easy — once you’re sure you’re ready to tackle the new task. Stefani Sassos, MS, RD, CDN, a dietitian with the Good Housekeeping Institute, said that, in general, treadmills — and incline walking — can do a world of good.

Walking on a treadmill is a great way to introduce yourself to exercise since it’s intuitive and doesn’t require much thought or skill to start. Incline walking, in particular, is a great lower-impact alternative to running that can instantly up the intensity in your workout.

Drawbacks of the 12-3-30

The primary drawback of the 12-3-30 is its risk of injury — and the underestimation of that risk.

Speaking recently with Today, Dennis Cardone, DO, a sports medicine specialist with the NYU Langone health system in New York, said the risk of injury is significant.

The problem is people don’t think that walking is a stressor. They think, ‘What’s the big deal using an incline? I’m only walking.’ But it really is a big stressor: Low back, hamstring, Achilles tendon, knee, plantar fascia … These are the areas where we see some significant injury related to inclining a treadmill.

At the end of the day, everyone will need to decide what exercise regimen is right for them — just as Giraldo did. The reality, according to experts, is that the 12-3-30 workout, while undoubtedly beneficial in some cases, is simply too much, too soon for many people.

The best way to proceed is to make things manageable and ensure that whatever routine you choose is something safe that you’ll actually stick to. Even if the 12-3-30 workout isn’t right for you at this moment, you can always try to tackle it once you feel truly ready.

Editors' Recommendations

5 products for starting your weight training program
physiologists shaking muscles strength man lifting weights 266x266

Weightlifting is a great way to strengthen your body, lose fat, and build muscle. It has many benefits when you add it to your workout routine. If you are starting the practice, there are certain products that can help you whether you're working out in your home gym or out at a public gym.

When you start to lift weights, it is easy to get sore. You may need some additional support as you progress and begin to lift heavier weights. That's where the products below come in handy. These can really help you up your game, so you can keep building strength even when you start to have difficulty.

Read more
Useful equipment for active seniors who love to exercise
balance ball vs office chair woman exercising

Exercise is good for the body and the mind no matter what age you are. Exercise can boost your immune system, lower your risk of falling, improve your memory and cognitive function, and strengthen relationships. There are so many activities that can help you stay in tip-top shape that are easy to incorporate into your day-to-day activities. These include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking your dog (Fido will not mind this suggestion), parking further away from the door while running your errands, and planting flowers in your garden. In addition, it is important to set aside “me” time. Do you enjoy cycling? Perhaps yoga is more your thing. We’ve put together a list of items that will aid you on your exercise journey no matter what kind of exercise you decide is right for you. Remember to talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

Eating well, getting enough rest, and exercising are crucial to a healthy, happy life. As you age, there are exercises and exercise equipment that are better suited to your fitness routine that will keep you safe and help you achieve your fitness goals. Whether you prefer walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, or yoga, if you are in search of workout accouterment to help you become a happier, healthier you, these items may be exactly what you’re looking for!

Read more
Items to help you heal and recover
woman massaging neck

You want to have items in your home that can help you recover your body and clothes. You want to prevent a mess from happening or prevent future injuries. You want the items to finally fix that loose button or prevent yourself from making a mess on your shirt while eating a delicious dinner. You are an active person with an active lifestyle. You enjoy working out, and your job relies on you lifting heavy packages. You need the items that can help you heal, recover, or prevent you from injuring yourself. The five items listed below will make your path to recovery easier.

You are a person who is looking for the perfect equipment for someone in the hospital recovering from surgery. You want to make their path to a recovery run smoothly. The five items listed above are what you will need for that person. The elbow and calf braces are perfect for someone who is doing physical therapy. The adult bids will make it easy for the person in a hospital bed to prevent future food and drink messes. The batteries are a great way to add some night light if the person reading a book at night, and does not want that bright hospital light. If the person is wearing their favorite button-up shirt, their supplies to fix any buttons that had fallen off.

Read more