10 Ways to Make Your Treadmill Workout Safer

Using a treadmill is a good way to get aerobic exercise, but there a few rules of the road you'll want to follow to use it safely.

With the news of SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg's accidental death on a treadmill, we are reminded that there are risks to exercise, particularly when using gym equipment. Because a treadmill is powered by a motor, rather than self-propelled, accidents can happen, especially when people lose their balance. Injuries can include bruises, sprains, broken bones, concussions, and sometimes, even death. 

While the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported over 24,000 emergency room visits associated with treadmills in the United States in 2014, deaths are rare. That said, it's important for people to know their physical limits and keep safety in mind when using a treadmill.

"On those days when you can't walk or run outside due to heat, cold, or rain, treadmill exercise can offer the same benefits plus the added benefit of being able to add hill-specific workouts and pacing strategies," advises Chris Eschbach, PhD, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C.

Treadmill Training and Safety Tips

Exercise can help you lose weight, make your bones and muscles stronger, relieve depression and stress, and lower your risk for diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure,
and colon cancer. Using a treadmill is a great tool to keep up your exercise regimen when other factors are inhibiting your outdoor routine.The following 10 tips can help improve the safety and maximize your treadmill workout:

  1. Know your health status. Many times a fall on a treadmill is caused by a cardiovascular incident (CVI) like a heart attack or a stroke. CVI affects males over the age of 55 with high stress levels. Make sure you have a clean bill of health before starting an exercise program.
  2. Recognize the signs. During your treadmill workout, if you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness, stop your workout. These are warning signs that there may be an underlying health condition you should discuss with your physician.
  3. Use the safety mechanism — often a clip that attaches to a user's clothing. If you trip and fall or lose your balance, the key will pull away from the machine, effectively shutting the treadmill down.
  4. Keep distractions to a minimum. Exercising on your treadmill while watching TV or reading can increase your chance of injury from a fall. Start your workout at a slower pace, be aware of the width of the treadmill belt, ditch the headphones until you find your rhythm, and keep the volume low.
  5. Have a plan. If your treadmill isn’t at a professionally staffed gym, let someone know that you are about to get a workout in. Keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency or workout with a buddy.
  6. Wear the proper gear. Avoid clothing that could snag in the belt of the treadmill and be sure to have good athletic footwear.
  7. Straddle the deck. Avoid starting the treadmill while standing on the belt. The motion could catch you by surprise and knock you off balance, sending you flying. Get into the habit of straddling the deck and allowing the belt to start moving before stepping on it.  
  8. Maintain the right form on the treadmill with good posture, your shoulders back, and your head looking forward, not down at the floor. Relax your hands and let your arms swing naturally. Keep the same length of stride as you would outside. Don't let your strides get short and choppy.
  9. Pay attention to where you are on the treadmill. Don't drift to one side on the belt. Know your limits; when you fatigue and lose proper form, it’s time to stop before you get hurt.
  10. Adding time and intensity at the same time can increase your risk for injury. When you are starting your treadmill program, gradually add time to your workout first. You can increase intensity later by adding speed or increasing the incline of your treadmill.


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