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28th Feb 2022

The 12-3-30 workout and what it reveals about weight loss culture

The treadmill workout is being hailed as a weight loss quick fix.

The term ‘GymTok’ refers to the space on TikTok where users share fitness motivation, workout tips, and training regimens, that at times, go viral.

The latest trend users are swearing by is the 12-3-30 workout, a treadmill exercise that was originally created by influencer Lauren Giraldo in 2020, but has seen a massive resurgance on TikTok in recent months.

The 12-3-30, as its name suggests, requires the practitioner to set the treadmill to an incline of 12, a speed of three and to walk at these settings for 30 minutes a few times a week.

In a now viral video, Giraldo pitches the idea firmly in the context of weight loss.

She flashes up a photo of herself from some time ago, telling her followers that she used to be 30 pounds heavier. She then explains that she was able to lose the weight, and keep it off by the 12-3-30 method.

“Literally all you need is a treadmill,” she says.


@laurengiraldoGame changer honestly♬ original sound – Lauren Giraldo

Now, as far as health benefits are concerned, the online publication Health states that the workout operates as a “great form of lower impact exercise”, but that, when it comes to the weight loss claims, we enter murky territory. Experts state that it could help some lose weight, but really any exercise regime can fulfil that role, such as swimming or tennis or cycling.

Indeed, exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle but no single workout routine can guarantee the same result for everybody, particularly when you consider how enormously health needs vary from one person to another.

The past few years have seen a decent pushback against diet culture, but on TikTok, the 12-3-30, and its dubious claims about weight loss reign supreme. In fact, its creator makes no attempt to highlight any of the workout’s benefits beyond these claims. Giraldo stipulates in her video that the workout is part of her “me time”,  but she doesn’t elaborate on why she enjoys it, beyond its alleged role in helping her lose weight.

Giraldo’s video has since amassed over 40 million views, and the 12-3-30 is now more than just a trend on TikTok. It’s a community of its own. Users share videos of themselves doing the workout alongside captions that read, “The girls that get it, get it, the girls that don’t don’t.” In more mean-spirited takes, users imitate other gym-goers – the uninitiated who pursue non 12-3-30 workouts. One TikToker pretends to be a “random girl running, thinking she’ll only lose fat”, before the video switches to her, walking nonchalantly on the treadmill, while the text box reads, “me, doing the 12-3-30, watching her.”

While creators use memes, and common TikTok audios to ensure that their own take on the workout will trend, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the 12-3-30 workout is essentially just an exercise routine framed as a weight loss quick fix.

In some videos, TikTokers share before and after imagery of themselves, and credit any changes in their appearance to the 12-3-30 workout. It’s worthwhile to note here that, if these videos were ads on Pinterest, they would be banned as they violate the website’s policy on weight loss advertisement.

Needless to say, a half hour treadmill workout is certainly on the lighter side of supposed weight loss methods. It’s far from the restrictive dietary trends like intermittent fasting or keto or paleo, and the general consensus from health professionals is that it’s largely safe. However, any technique that’s framed as some sort of shortcut to weight loss should be taken with a pinch of salt, particularly if weight loss is seen as the defining benefit of the trend.

In short, when you strip away the memes and trending TikTok audios, the hype surrounding the 12-3-30 reveals that fitness trends centred solely around weight loss as opposed to enjoyment, fitness, or indeed, any other health metric, continue to reign supreme on social media.