Treadmills, like any piece of machinery, can be dangerous if they are used improperly or safety precautions are not followed. You can have the best treadmill in the world, but if you are careless and don’t follow general guidelines, it can take less than a second to go from a good workout to an injury. It’s important to keep children and pets away from the treadmill at all times, and never leave the key in while it’s not being used. Here are nine safety tips for to help you use the treadmill while minimizing the risk of injury.
See Our Video Explanation for Treadmill Safety Tips
1. Look Forward
It’s common for exercisers to want to watch their feet, especially if they are new to using a treadmill. Exercisers who look down or to the side while they are on a treadmill are likely to lose their balance and fall. Most people’s feet follow their eyes, so looking to the side is likely to cause their feet to move to the side, where they may be injured by the moving belt.
Dizziness is a common complaint from people who have only used a treadmill a few times. While exercising on a treadmill, the exerciser has the sensation that the ground is moving. Stepping off of the treadmill may cause the exerciser to feel disoriented the first couple of times, so they should hold onto something until the dizziness subsides.
2. Don’t Rely on Handrails
It’s fine for a walker to use the handrails while they are getting used to the machine’s movement, but using the handrails for an extended period of time can strain shoulders and elbows. It is also a sign that the speed or incline is set too high and should be adjusted to a more comfortable level. Using handrails can also throw off an exerciser’s balance and make them more prone to leg and foot injuries.
Holding onto the rails decreases the number of calories burned because the core muscles are not engaged the way they should be. Moving the arms freely is a more natural movement that also burns calories.
3. Start by Straddling the Deck
When beginning a workout, it is important for the runner to straddle the deck and not start the machine with their feet on the belt. Most machines start at a slow pace regardless of what setting they were set on when they were turned off. This safety feature can malfunction and cause injury to an exerciser that is expecting a much lower starting speed. Even if the runner is planning to sprint, they should start slowly and increase their speed gradually.
4. Increase Either Speed or Incline
Maintaining a fast paced run on a steep incline is very difficult, and anyone who uses their treadmill to run on an incline should first increase the incline to a level that is comfortable to them and then increase their speed slowly. It is easy for runners to slip and fall if they increase their running speed and the machine’s incline setting significantly without adjusting to the steep incline first.
5. Don’t Go Barefoot
There is heat and friction created by the moving belt on a treadmill and the feet need to be protected from these elements. Burns, scrapes, and blisters are common ailments of exercisers who use the treadmill barefoot. Everyone should wear properly fitting shoes when they exercise because their shoes help to absorb the shock of movement and take stress off of their joints. Feet can get caught where the side of the moving belt meets the machine and serious injury may occur.
It is especially important to wear shoes when using a treadmill at the gym because fungus and other germs can be spread by bare feet and it is unsanitary. Most gyms do not allow their members to use the treadmill or other exercise equipment without shoes.
6. Don’t Step Off a Moving Treadmill
It is tempting to leave the treadmill in motion while the exerciser steps off for a few minutes to answer the door or go to the bathroom. A moving treadmill is a danger to anyone in the area and should be shut off completely before the exerciser steps off the machine. Everyone who uses a treadmill should know where the emergency shut off button is located so that it can be stopped quickly if they become injured or a piece of clothing gets caught between the moving parts.
7. Keep Children Away
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 8,700 documented injuries to children every year are caused by exercise equipment in their home. Machines with moving parts are dangerous for children and should be stored in an area that is away from where children play. Treadmills often cause injuries to the hands and arms of children who are curious about them and put their hands on the belt or between the belt and the rest of the machine. It is best for parents to only use their treadmill while their children are being supervised by another adult.
8. Leave Plenty of Space
Everyone who uses a treadmill for exercise should try to keep their balance and use the machine safely, but falls can happen to even the most experienced treadmill users. It is a good idea to make sure there is nothing placed behind the treadmill that an exerciser could hit their head on if they fell off the back of the machine. Treadmill belts move quickly and there is quite a bit of force behind them, so care should be taken to avoid injury in case of a fall.
9. Don’t Push Too Hard
Last but definitely not least! Everyone should know their own limits when exercising and take care to not push their body hard enough to cause injury. Keeping track of your heart rate while exercising is a good idea. Everyone should know their target heart rate and try not to exceed 80% of that rate. The body burns fat efficiently when working at 50% to 70% of the target heart rate and serious health issues such as heart attack and stroke are likely to occur at 90% or more of the target heart rate.
Treadmills are a valuable piece of exercise equipment that can help people stay in shape when they cannot run outside, but everyone who uses a treadmill should take steps to minimize the risk of injury to themselves and the people and animals around them.