Are Treadmills Suitable For Kids? (Maybe, For Some Ages)
By Simon Gould
Note - It is your responsibility to keep your children safe around treadmills regardless of what I've said in this article.
Should a child be around a treadmill? At certain ages, no way. But as they get older, depending on their maturity, you may trust them more and allow a supervised run. Beyond that you may allow a child to use the treadmill but only if you're in the next room perhaps. A treadmill is a fun and useful tool for exercise and health. But it's still a heavy and powerful machine.
Below age 11
Any child of these ages should be well away from a treadmill. There are thousands of visits to the emergency room every year from children who've had their fingers caught. Some fingers have had to be amputated all because a child got near a working treadmill. The advice is the same for manual treadmills as well a electric or motorized.
Children of a young age have inquisitive minds. They like to pick up things or put their fingers into the tiniest of holes and gaps. The last thing you want is an accident that could affect a child for life, especially one that could have been avoided. Once you've bought a treadmill you want to think about where you're going to put it.
Location of the treadmill
Decide the location before the treadmill is assembled and move the boxes to that room or area. It's easier to transport boxes rather than a fully assembled machine. Ideally you want the treadmill to have its own room and the door to have a lock. Failing that you could put a gate up in the doorway to prevent access.
If it's in an open room then, in addition to the removing the safety key and unplugging the treadmill, I would buy or improvise some sort of cover to go over the machine. It just gives a further protection just in case your head is ever turned. From a young age you can explain to your young ones that the treadmill is not a toy to be climbed upon or the buttons pressed.
Ages 12 to 13
I was able to use our treadmill at home when I was this age, I was always supervised. This is where I think your judgment about your child is at call. How mature are they. Disregard what other parents are doing. How mature is your child and are they exercising already are the questions only you can answer.
Even if you allow your child this age to use the treadmill supervised, always unplug from the electrical socket and remove the safety key when you're busy. This is just to ensure they don't use it when your full attention is not on them. If you feel your child of this age should not use the treadmill at all, be firm, they can play or exercise outside.
I think, from the age of 14 and up, I would let my child use a treadmill supervised. It's 14 and up that I think a child is mature enough to use a treadmill. Even if I could be confident that they are using a treadmill properly, I would still want to be in the same room. Treadmills can be very useful for young people.
If your child is overweight or doesn't get much exercise at school. If your child doesn't go outside because maybe there are no parks near. Then a treadmill could be really useful. I used to love exercising when I was a teenager so our treadmill got a lot of use. I represented my school in many sports so I was happy to maintain my fitness levels at home.
Treadmill safety for all ages
As per the CPSC, in 2019 there were 25,000 treadmill injuries, 2,000 of these involved children under 8 years old. Between 2018 and 2020, there were 17 fatalities. When you realize that 50 million Americans use a treadmill every year, a tiny fraction of people are getting hurt. But it still highlights a risk involved with using the machine and that risk gets higher for younger users.
Treadmills aren't play things, they need to be taken seriously. Even if you do allow your child to use one supervised, there are ways to ensure any risks are reduced. Always use the treadmill safety key and cord by attaching it to them. Have them only step off the treadmill once it's stopped. Make sure there are no distractions for you or your child while they're using it.
Other ways to stay safe are when exercising to keep your head up and don't look down, you're more likely to lose your balance and fall otherwise. If you feel out of breath or in pain, hold onto the handrails and stop. Don't over do it, a child may have boundless energy, but once they get tired they may lose concentration on a treadmill and hurt themself.
A treadmill can be useful for the whole family to get great health benefits that come from regular aerobic exercise. As I said before they can be a great weight loss tool as well for overweight teenagers. If you're unsure of anything then go on the side of safety as a lot can go wrong with this large piece of equipment that has fast moving parts.
For young children who, maybe, see you running on a treadmill and want to try it. Don't let them. If an accident happens to a young child it can affect them for the rest of their lives. The risk isn't worth it. There are some things only adults and older children should be using and a treadmill is one of them. Remember to use all safety features.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here's my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*