The fitness world is filled with fads — new workout routines that appear out of nowhere and, usually, return to nowhere in short order. One of the newest fads is called the 12-3-30 workout. This one gained traction in fall 2020, and even fitness pros have taken notice. “The 12-3-30 workout is a tool that has been used and talked about within the fitness world as well as gained interest via social media platforms,” says Matt Camargo, director of sports performnce at ProSport Physical Therapy and Performance in Southern California.
The workout was shared with the world by a social media influencer named Lauren Giraldo, who shared it on YouTube in 2019 before posting it on TikTok this past November. “It received a lot of views and likes,” Camargo says. And, just like that, a fad was born.
The concept is pretty simple, and well timed for pandemic-induced home workouts for those lucky enough to own a treadmill. The treadmill is set with an incline of 12 and a speed of 3 miles per hour, and you walk at that pace for 30 total minutes.
Why did something so basic became so popular? That’s due to its catchy title and simple method of completion, Camargo says, “especially for beginners who need direction and a workout that they can easily keep track of.” Also, Giraldo claims she lost about 30 pounds using the 12-3-30 workout, “which is enticing to those who are looking to drop the weight,” he says.
Most important, perhaps, is the fact that people always want something new. “Whether it is for strength, muscle size, weight loss, increasing speed and power, there have been and always will be workouts or tools that will appear to be fads,” he says. “People enjoy the latest trends and what appears to be popular. If it is different and positive results can be shown at all, then that makes it even more enticing to try.”
Strength and Cardio Benefits
Walking on an incline produces an increased heart rate. It also activates glutes, quads and hamstrings more than walking on level ground. This also burns more calories. You could do this outdoors, of course. But if you live in a climate that has extreme temperatures, “a treadmill is a great way to beat the heat or cold from the comfort of your home,” says Brianna Bernard, a personal trainer in Minneapolis. “In addition, not all landscapes are created equal. Some areas, such as San Francisco, might be too hilly, while others, like Iowa, may be too flat to replicate these exact conditions outdoors. And the treadmill can keep pace for you to ensure you’re walking at a consistent speed.”
That doesn’t mean that this workout is any better — or worse — than other workouts. “At the end of the day, you have to decide what it is that you are willing to do,” Bernard says. If you dislike running, for example, you need to find a different workout to fulfill your cardiovascular fitness needs. “Otherwise you will probably just skip it altogether,” she says. “But if you discover that while running isn’t your thing, you really enjoy walking, then this could be a perfect alternative.”
In the end, the exercise itself doesn’t matter much. What matters is that you do it — and do it regularly. “All exercise can be made to be challenging and effective. Research has shown that exercise and just effective movement has a high correlation with an increase in health,” Camargo says. “The question is how consistent can said individual be with any exercise routine, as well as is that routine or tool specific to meet the individual’s goals.”
[READ: Mental Benefits of Exercise.]
Balance Benefits With Risks
Any workout needs to be vetted for that reason, specially new and unproven ones. “What I do not like about (this workout), which is not any fault to the workout or individuals who vouch for it, is somewhat misleading details,” Camargo says. “The part I mention to my staff and athletes is to be wary of when individuals make claims about anything. Do the research, try it out and then ask yourself what the risks versus rewards are.”
When choosing any type of exercise, ask if you can achieve the same thing more safely and/or effectively, he adds. “There is a time and place for variation, but sometimes that gets overdone to the point it is just random and is not planned variation. In all situations organization always leads to effective and successful results, so why not do the same with exercise?”
The 12-3-30 workout is not for everyone, Camargo says. Specifically, anyone with leg, feet, ankle or Achilles tendon issues may want to try something else. “That steep of an incline can place a lot of stress on the muscles of the lower leg, if the musculature of the feet are not ready to perform such volume at that type of intensity , they can potentially cause more harm than good,” he says.
The same goes for the knees, hips and lower back. Those with lower body issues may want to gradually incorporate the 12-3-30 workout, along with other training methods, to see if it works for them.
The speed, incline percentage and length of time should be modified to meet your fitness level and health, Bernard adds. “For example, if you are a healthy, 25-year-old with no preexisting injuries, this could be perfect for you. But if you are a 55-year-old woman with arthritic knees and asthma, this workout could require some modifications to work for you instead of against you. Perhaps more of a flat road at a pace of 2 miles per hour for 15 minutes would be more appropriate,” she says.
Always keep in mind that no single type of workout or exercise will give you everything you may need. “Training and health is on an ever-growing continuum, not just a point on a line,” Camargo says. “Careful manipulation of the training variables and planned variation with an exercise routine are the core principles that should never be neglected.”
And one final but important word of advice: Always consult with your health care providers before starting any new exercise program.
More from U.S. News