What Is the 12-3-30 Workout? What to Know About This Viral Trend

This straightforward but vigorous walking exercise can help with heart health and weight management, if done correctly.

We need to work out for 150 minutes per week to reap the amazing benefits of exercise, according to the American Heart Association. Luckily, many aerobic activities qualify, not just jogging or intense HIIT workouts.

In recent years, walking has become a popular workout choice for its low impact and accessibility. While many health-conscious individuals aim for the arbitrary 10,000 steps per day,  just ten minutes of brisk walking per day easily counts towards your weekly quota. However, if you are relying solely on walking to meet your health goals or lose excess weight, aiming for 30 minutes per day is optimal.

While a brief walk at tempo is great, one new walking workout routine has been sweeping the internet: the 12-3-30 workout. The concept emerged from TikTok’s Lauren Giraldo (@laurengiraldo) and her video has garnered over 64 million views—and counting. Check out the video for yourself!

@laurengiraldoGame changer honestly♬ original sound – Lauren Giraldo

What Is the 12-3-30 workout?

In short, the 12-3-30 workout is a treadmill walking exercise. You set the incline of the treadmill to 12% and the speed to 3 miles per hour, then walk on it for 30 minutes. That’s it!

But is it safe? To get a better sense of the exercise’s potential benefits and risks, we’ve collated information from numerous experts, outlined below.

Is the 12-3-30 workout legit?

In short, yes, with some caveats. In the words of Stefani Sassos, MS, RN, CDN, a certified fitness professional with the Good Housekeeping Institute, “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 of your workout.”

However, the potential efficacy of the workout depends on what exactly you are trying to achieve, as well as individual circumstances and preexisting conditions. To get a better sense of what’s possible with the 12-3-30 workout, let’s go over specific benefits and risks.

What are some of the benefits of the 12-3-30 workout?

In an interview with Forbes Health, Melissa Prestipino, a doctor of physical therapy and owner of Maize and Blue Rehab in New Jersey, and Brittany Simon, a certified personal trainer with the International Sports Science Association (ISSA) and owner of ReckFit Total Body Fitness in Arizona, both outline specific benefits and risks of the 12-3-30 workout.

Some of the key benefits as they see them include the following:

Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes

According to Prestipino, a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risks of these two common health conditions. While virtually any healthy movement can help lower the risks of developing them, the 12-3-30 may be a particularly good choice, as its incline will raise your heart rate to help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Toned lower body muscles

Walking may be considered a full-body exercise, but in the 12-3-30 workout, the most impacted muscles are those in the lower body. “The incline puts your posterior chain—your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and calf muscles—to work, which improves lower body strength and challenges your overall balance,” according to Simon.

Promotion of fat loss

For many viewers, this may be the largest pull of the video since Giraldo claims this workout helped her lose 30 pounds and keep the weight off. While this may be true for Giraldo, Simon emphasizes the individuality of weight loss.

According to Simon, the “fat-burning zone” of exercise occurs when you maintain 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate (the highest number of times your heart should beat during exercise). To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. If you are someone whose heart rate lands in that range while doing the 12-3-30 workout, then yes, the exercise—paired with a balanced diet—may result in weight loss over the long term.

However, according to a 2020 study on weight loss published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, participating sedentary adults needed about 300 minutes of aerobic exercise per week to lose weight. Naturally, even doing the 12-3-30 workout every day would not meet these goals—and isn’t recommended!—so it’s important to recognize that the 12-3-30 workout, like any workout, is just one piece of a complex weight loss puzzle.

Improvement of mood

Exercise in general results in the release of endorphins, feel-good brain chemicals that can improve mood and lower the impact of chronic mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. And the 12-3-30 workout certainly qualifies!

Are there any risks to doing the 12-3-30 workout?

Control Panel Of Cardio MachineJun/Getty Images

There are a handful of risks experts want people to know about. Simon, for one, warns that participants could develop shin splints or exacerbate achy joints in their knees and ankles if they are not adequately prepared for the workout. Prestipino points out that inclines can sometimes lead to falling due to unstable balance. Another expert, Janet Hamilton, CSCS, exercise physiologist and running coach with Running Strong in Georgia, worries about back health: “Any time you walk up that steep of a hill, that’s a lot of load on your lower back.” The bottom line from all of these experts is that participants must be both well suited to the workout and well warmed up to ensure safe exercise.

Who Is Best Suited to the 12-3-30 Workout?

The best candidates for the 12-3-30 are those people who already have some exercise experience. In an interview with HealthDeAnne Davis Brooks, EdD, an exercise physiologist and associate professor of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, claims, “You have to be in pretty decent shape to go at that pace and that incline for 30 minutes.”

Additionally, if you have preexisting issues with your hips, knees, ankles, or back, or osteoporosis, check with your doctor before trying the 12-3-30 workout. You may still be able to partake—Prestipino points out the workout “can be good for increasing blood flow and circulation to improve mobility and decrease stiffness”—but only move forward with the support of a trusted primary care physician.

How Many Days a Week Should I Do the 12-3-30 Workout?

In her TikTok video, Lauren says to do the workout “as many times as you can per week,” saying that she aims for five. However, experts suggest making the 12-3-30 just one part of a larger workout routine, opting to do it just “a few” times per week (say, three). Simon suggests making it a “complement to strength training.”

How Do I Safely Try the 12-3-20 Workout?

First things first, make sure you can easily walk 30 minutes on flat terrain per day without any pain. If you can do that for two or three weeks, try adding an incline. If that’s OK for you after a week or two, you can try an amended version of the 12-3-30.

Start with a gentle warm-up, like five to 10 minutes of flat walking, then try a lower incline, such as 6%, at 3 miles per hour. If 30 minutes feels too long, try doing 10-minute bursts, three times a day, suggests Hamilton. From there, if you feel no pain, you can work up to a full 12% incline for 30 minutes. And no matter how you amend the exercise, remember to cool down afterward with another no-incline walk.

Lastly, as much as possible, keep your form upright, and swing your arms at your sides, rather than keeping them on the rail or front display, which could lead to muscle strain. Always listen to your body and do not push yourself beyond what it can handle. Breathe deeply and stretch your legs regularly for best results, and alternate the workout with other holistic exercises. Good luck, all you fitness mavens!

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Van Van Cleave
Van Van Cleave (they/them) is a writer and artist working out of Oakland, CA. The youngest in a long line of DIYers and creatives, Van fancies themself an encyclopedia of practicable knowledge for better living. They are passionate about all things food, home, garden, and lifestyle. If you've ever dreamed of befriending the Fab Five, Van gets you, and may just be the next best thing.