By Simon Gould
Treadmills and especially motorized treadmills are dangerous pieces of fitness equipment. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission around 20,000 people visit the emergency room and 3 people die every year directly from treadmill use. Let’s face it, the belt can move very fast and if you’re not concentrating on what you’re doing you could become another statistic.
Injuries can range from burns from the friction of the moving belt to head trauma from coming off the treadmill while it’s in motion. There are many things you can do to stay safe on a treadmill whether you own one at home or go out and use one in a gym. These are simple steps that will make sure you get the exercise you need and prevent any injuries.
12 Tips to stay safe on a treadmill
1. Use the safety key
This is the most important safety feature all treadmills should have these days. You attach the key to yourself with string attached to the treadmill. If the connection is broken then the belt stops. So if you fall off then any friction burns are greatly reduced and you can’t be propelled by the belt either.
2. Have space around the treadmill
This is especially the case behind you as you run. Icon Fitness, who make the popular NordicTrack treadmills, recommend a clearance behind of 8 ft or 2.4 m and 2 ft or 0.6 m on each side. Behind you is where a moving belt can propel you into a wall if the treadmill is too close. Think about the height as well when the incline is fully activated.
3. Be aware of your surroundings
You need to concentrate on what you’re doing, you need to walk or run straight and true. If you’re in a gym you may hear sudden noises from other people dropping weights and other equipment. There can be a lot going on so concentrate on what you’re doing. Once you’ve got used to it and you feel safe, then you can focus on any screen or TV in front of you.
4. Keep children and animals away
At home a child will naturally be curious about what you’re doing and may want to have a go. Educate them when you buy the treadmill of the dangers and supervise children if they’re using the equipment. Don’t leave a belt moving if you walk away in case anyone or thing can accidentally step on it without knowing it’s at speed.
5. Use settings separately
This is mainly the incline and speed. If you want them to change then do it separately, concentrate on one aspect of what you’re trying to do. Choose to do one first and stick with it. Take it slowly and if you’re struggling with either speed or incline then slow or lower it until you increase your level of fitness.
6. Don’t run barefoot
You may have heard of barefoot running but it doesn’t mean running without any footwear at all. On a treadmill wear the appropriate shoes to prevent friction burns and blisters on your feet. Footwear will last a long time for treadmill use especially if you can buy proper running shoes even for treadmill running.
7. Don’t over do it
This is very true if you’re running alone. Don’t do sprints up to near maximum heart rate by yourself. If you’re doing a hard treadmill run do it with others. Same as in any run, if you’re starting to feel fatigued then think about stopping. Accidents are far more likely to happen if you’re struggling with the speed or incline.
8. Listen to your body
If you’re starting to feel faint, have any chest pains, racing heart or any feeling that’s not expected then stop what you’re doing, and seek medical help. Any exercise especially if you’re pushing yourself may need some special attention in how you’re feeling while you’re doing it. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.
9. Look forward
It can be tempting to look down to make sure you’re on the middle of the belt of the treadmill. Looking down is disorienting and you may lose balance. It takes some practise but you need to be confident that you’re not going to fall off. If you feel you need to hold onto something for your safety, that’s what the handrails are for.
10. Unplug the treadmill
After every use, make it a habit to unplug the treadmill from the socket. Keeping it plugged in is a fire hazard especially if you use a lot of extension cords or multiple power strips. To improve your safety you don’t want anyone or thing, like a pet, to accidentally switch on a treadmill. Children should be supervised around it.
11. Straddle the deck to begin
Make sure the belt isn’t moving when you get on and straddle the deck if you need to. You can either stand on the belt and start the speed, or step on from the side. The lowest speed is usually very slow and this is what it will start on. Keep your finger on the speed button to increase the speed to something you feel comfortable and confident with.
12. Check it’s stopped before getting off
Don’t get off a moving belt. This can be the cause of many accidents. Press the stop button and make sure it has fully come to a stop. It usually stops quickly, then take off the safety cord attached to you and keep it somewhere on the treadmill. Use the handrails to step down if you need to. Check there’s nothing in the way behind you and you’re good to go.
So there you have it, just a few things to think about when you’re going for your next run. Treadmills are deceptive because they’re so easy to use you don’t think anything can happen to you while running on it. But with it’s powerful motor and high speed the risk is there for those who neglect a thought about safety.
Thankfully, accidents are rare when it comes to the treadmill and by taking care we can make them rarer still. A little bit of thought by everyone who’s using and is around a treadmill is all that’s needed. They are fantastic pieces of fitness equipment that can give excellent health benefits, and we can keep it that way by following the 12 tips above.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*