The 12-3-30 workout originated on TikTok and is getting a lot of attention.
The workout uses a steep incline on the treadmill.
Physicians should know if this workout is a good fit for their patients.
Increased interest in health and wellness had led to a proliferation of ‘viral’ workouts of all sorts—usually with catchy monikers meant to draw people in. Case in point: The 12-3-30 treadmill workout, which became popular when a TikTok video made by social media creator Lauren Giraldo garnered almost 3 million likes.
What is the 12-3-30 workout?
The 12-3-30 workout refers to walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 3 miles per hour (MPH) set at an incline level of 12. Its appeal is obvious—with thousands of comments on Giraldo’s video touting the benefits of the workout. People want an accessible way to build exercise into their lives, and the 12-3-30 workout seems to offer that.
In her TikTok video, Giraldo says the workout’s simplicity is what engaged her: “I used to be so intimidated by the gym and it wasn't motivating. But now I go, I do this one thing, and I can feel good about myself."
Lauren Giraldo claims to have lost 30 pounds using her 12-3-30 workout.
“This workout is low-impact, only requires one piece of equipment, and is very straightforward,” says Christine VanDoren, PT, CN. The workout boasts some clear benefits, VanDoren says. “Because of these factors, many beginners choose it when first getting into exercising.”
“In a walking treadmill workout, you’re not pounding [like you would be when you run], but you’re still getting cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise, which is necessary for people of all ages,” says Tara Scott, MD, an integrative medicine practitioner and medical director at Revitalize Medical Group. “And I like the fact that it's a walking exercise, which means it’s not so unattainable to everybody.”
Working out on the treadmill can certainly facilitate weight loss, if that’s the goal. A study, which included obese and overweight women, found that treadmill walking for 30 minutes, five days per week for 12 weeks led to both weight loss and reduced waist circumference.
The 12-3-30 workout isn’t for everyone
While the 12-3-30 workout might be a solid routine for some people, you should know when to warn your patients against it, Scott says.
For one, starting at an incline of 12 won’t be optimal or easy for everyone. VanDoren recommends physicians advise patients to work up to an incline of 12 to prevent injuries. Patients could start at a level two or three incline and walk for 20 minutes to begin with. After each session, they should increase the time and incline level.
VanDoren also warns that people with joint issues could find the steep incline problematic, even if they’re only walking on the treadmill. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “a 2 percent incline can help reduce impact on the spine, hips, knees, feet and ankles, but a steeper climb increases joint stress.” To reduce some of the impact, patients with joint issues should be advised to lower the incline and to find a treadmill cushioned tread belt, if possible. 
Physicians should be working with patients to understand how to best use a treadmill. “People should be making sure their hips are equal and their gait is good first,” Scott says.
VanDoren also suggests recommending patients use the handlebars if they need some support.
Patients with heart conditions should also be cleared before jumping onto the 12-3-30 trend as well, since the incline can drive up heart rate, Scott says.
For patients cleared to use the treadmill, the Cleveland Clinic recommends users focus on reaching their target heart rate training zone and sustaining that for at least 20 minutes—a goal that should be worked up to. From there, adding variety (by alternating pops of high and low intensity) to their treadmill workout is the name of the game. It may not be as catchy sounding as doing the 12-3-30 workout, but it’s effective.
Lastly, the 12-3-30 workout alone isn’t enough. Patients should be briefed on the importance of combining both aerobic and resistance training, in addition to adding flexibility and balance exercises to their routine.
Social media and your patients
Scott says it may be tempting for physicians to disregard health information circulating on social media—and any trending workouts that come from it. That’s because the people promoting these workouts may not be qualified. For example, Giraldo is an influencer—not a medical or fitness professional.
And while it’s important that physicians remind their patients to consider their sources, it’s also important to stay open-minded. “Yes, there’s some negative stuff and false information on social media, but there’s also some really helpful stuff out there,” Scott says.
"I’m constantly trying to get people to exercise, so if [social media] is what gets them moving, that’s great."
— Tara Scott, MD
Staying on top of trends like the 12-3-30 workout—even if you’re not a fan of TikTok—will ensure your ability to answer patient questions.
“Social media is not something that many older doctors grew up with when training, but it’s something we’ve got to keep up with now,” Scott says. “And if a patient says a social media workout is motivating them, we should be open to that.”