What Are The Side Effects Of Using A Treadmill? (Explained)
By Simon Gould
Using a treadmill as with any other fitness equipment isn't without it's side effects. The treadmill probably has more because there's still a lot of impact when using one. Care needs to be taken to ensure any side effects don't get any worse. Here I go through the negative and positive effects you might have from exercising on a treadmill.
Negative side effects of using a treadmill
Sore joints - Running outside can cause this and so can a treadmill. They are still very heavy on the knees as you pound out the miles. This is especially the case if you're running. Treadmills can cause knee problems or make existing knee difficulties or pain worse. This is very much the case for people who have had surgery on their knee or have an inherent weakness in the knee.
Leg cramp - This is a muscle spasm condition that can cause pain and stiffness and a treadmill can cause it. When it occurs you have to stop exercising until it clears up. The reason it happens is not fully known but is a very unpleasant side effect. Fortunately it doesn't occur very often but when it does you'll know about it.
Shortness of breath - If you're not used to exercise and you start running for a long period at high speed, you may suffer breathing difficulties to the point you'll have to stop. It's very easy to over do the treadmill because you're not going anywhere. There's a medical name for it called dyspnea and it can be very distressing.
Back pain - It's very easy to hold on the hand rails or lean forward and run with no form or good posture. But all these things could cause you back pain. This can occur during exercise or sometime afterward. Maybe your back will be stiff when you get up in the morning. This is easily done making it a common side effect.
Dizziness - This can occur if you have vertigo or low blood pressure. Sometimes there can be no cause for a sudden dizziness you may get while on a treadmill or after getting off. Sometimes this can be quite debilitating and you may need to stop exercising because of it. If it happens frequently then a doctor may be able to find out why it happens.
Cardiac arrest - Or a heart attack can happen in some vulnerable or susceptible people. You should always seek advice from a health care professional especially if you're a bit older or have an underlying medical condition. This is an extreme side effect but one that does occur. Many gyms now have resuscitation devices to help people in need.
Accidents - While not a medical side effect as such, there are a lot of accidents and some fatalities of people using a treadmill every year. Use the emergency stop key so the machine stops if you fall off and keep children away while they're young. A treadmill is a dangerous machine that can move very fast so care must be taken around it.
How to reduce the negative side effects
Running shoes - I recommend running shoes even if you're walking on a treadmill. They're designed with cushioning and support the foot as you move. They're perfect to ensure your knees don't take so much punishment and your back doesn't feel pain or get stiff. They don't have to be expensive and can really make a difference.
Walk, don't run - If you have knee problems you may want to consider walking. It's far easier on the knees as the leg doesn't pound down as you run. Use the incline to make it harder and get a better workout. This will cure a lot of the negative side effects I've listed above and makes the treadmill something everyone can use.
Form and posture - There are certain ways of exercising on a treadmill that can cause muscle aches and stiffness. You need to look ahead and stay upright in the shoulders, back and arms. Don't hold onto the hand rails and relax as you exercise. Also breath as you need to and if you can follow all that, you'll suffer far less negative effects.
Emergency stop key - This is the one that reduces the most accidents and injuries. Many people don't use it but it only takes a second to clip it onto your clothing. The stop key can prevent many burns that people get from falling off a treadmill and it still moving while you lay on it. It's a vital part of the machine's safety feature and worth using.
Incline and decline - The incline is a good and popular feature of a treadmill. However, it should be used sparingly, it's not natural to run up a hill for a long period and you shouldn't do it on a treadmill either. It's bad for your knees and joints. It's perfectly fine to walk on an incline. The same is true of a decline which is very bad for the knees.
Positive side effects
There's no getting away from the fact that exercising is very good for our health in many ways. We benefit physically and mentally and those benefits get better the more often we do it. A doctor has said that if regular exercise were a pill, it would be the most commonly prescribed medicine in the world and be called a miracle cure. Here are the good effects:
- Less pressure on the joints than running outside
- Weight loss and weight maintenance
- Eases depression and anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Increases motivation
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Improves the cardiovascular system
- Builds and maintains muscle mass
- Increases bone density and helps prevent osteoporosis
- Helps control blood sugar
- Promotes better sleep
- Increases energy levels
- Boosts your immune system
These benefits or positive side effects can be had just by exercising regularly. The World Health Organization says you need to do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise per week. This could be just 30 minutes per day, 3 days per week. You can do this by walking on an incline or jogging on a treadmill. You may have to build up to 30 minutes, it's just a matter of time and putting in the effort.
The positives far outweigh the negatives
Everything we do has risks, even crossing the street can hurt us. If a health care professional says you can exercise then there's really no excuse not to get on your treadmill. I maybe biased but I feel fantastic when I run regularly and that's the benefits I can feel. It's doing my body a whole lot of good that I can't feel. Exercise is known to help you live a longer healthier life and that's something everyone wants.
Governments around the world recommend their citizens get regular exercise. Every time I see my doctor they ask if and how often I exercise. Our sedentary lifestyle is damaging by causing an increase in diabetes and the average weight of people around the world is rising to unprecedented levels. We need to get off our chairs and start moving.
Yes, there are and can be side effects of using a treadmill. But as I've said there are ways to reduce them to almost nothing. I've used one for over 30 years and I've never had an accident. I did have a knee problem once when I've over done it but that cleared quickly and I was back on. I am not so young any more so I need to rein myself in!
As long as we take care we can all enjoy the benefits of exercise. It would be a shame to forego it all because you're worried about any side effects that may occur. So as long as you build up gradually, you don't need to let any worries stop you improving your life for the better. So take advantage of an amazing piece of fitness equipment that is the treadmill.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2022