A Walk Through History: When Were Treadmills Invented?

When were treadmills invented

As we walk on the modern-day treadmills today, we rarely stop to think about the history of this ubiquitous machine. However, the treadmill has a surprisingly long and fascinating history that reaches back to ancient times. In this article, let’s go on a journey through their history , exploring when were treadmills invented, their origins, evolution, and benefits.

The Origins of Treadmills: When Were Treadmills Invented?

The first known use of treadmills dates back to ancient Rome. These ancient machines were used as a means of lifting heavy weights. These machines, known as “treadwheels,” consisted of a large wheel with steps on its outer edge. Slaves would climb the steps, causing the wheel to turn and lift heavy objects. They were not used for exercise at all. They were used for transporting heavy weights for convenience.

Past forward to the future, and the use of treadmills took a different turn. In the 19th century, they were used as a punishment for prisoners in England. The machines were designed so that the prisoners would have to walk on them. Prisoners have to walk on the treadmills for hours at a time, often with no break. The idea was to break the prisoners’ spirits and deter them from committing further crimes. This use was eventually abolished in the mid-1800s. It was considered too inhumane, even for prisoners.

Treadmills in the 19th Century

In the 19th century, treadmills began to be used as exercise machines. These machines were powered by the user’s own movement, rather than by slaves or prisoners. The earliest such machine was the “perpetual motion gymnasium,” which was invented in the United States in 1851. This machine consisted of a series of levers and pulleys that the user would move with their arms and legs.

By the end of the 19th century, treadmills had become popular exercise machines in Europe and the United States. These machines were often used in medical settings, to help patients recover from illness or injury. They were also used for physical training in the military.

Treadmills in the 20th Century

In the early 20th century, treadmills began to be used as diagnostic tools in medical settings. Doctors would have patients walk on them while they measure their heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs. This helped doctors to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions.

In the 1960s, the first motorized treadmills were invented. These machines were easier to use than the earlier manual machines. So, they quickly became popular in gyms and fitness centers. Today, they are the most common type.

Modern-Day Treadmills

Today’s treadmills are highly advanced machines that incorporate a wide range of features and technologies. Many modern treadmills have built-in heart rate monitors, pre-programmed workouts, and adjustable inclines. Some machines even have virtual reality features, allowing users to simulate running through different landscapes and environments.

One of the most significant advancements in treadmill technology in recent years has been the development of “smart” treadmills. These machines have sensors that can track the user’s movements and provide feedback on their form and technique. They can also connect to apps and other fitness-tracking devices. This allows users to monitor their progress and track their workouts over time.

The Benefits of Using a Treadmill

There are many benefits to using a treadmill as part of your exercise routine. One of the most significant benefits is that this type of running is a low-impact exercise. This means that it puts less stress on your joints than running on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement.

Treadmills also allow you to control your workout environment. You can adjust the incline and speed of the machine to create a more challenging workout. Or, you can use pre-programmed workouts to target specific muscle groups and fitness goals.

Finally, using a treadmill is a convenient and efficient way to exercise. You can use it at any time of day, regardless of the weather or other external factors. And because they are located indoors, you don’t have to worry about traffic, pedestrians, or other hazards. These obstacles make outdoor running less enjoyable. So, it’s such as convenience to be able to run without any hassle. 

Different Types of Treadmills

There are several different types of treadmills available on the market today, each with its unique features and benefits. Manual treadmills are the most basic type, and they are powered by the user’s own movement. Motorized treadmills, as mentioned earlier, are powered by an electric motor and are much easier to use than manual ones.

Another type of treadmill is the inclined treadmill. These machines allow you to adjust the incline of the running surface, creating a more challenging workout. Some can simulate running up hills or stairs. This makes them ideal for training for races or other challenging events.

Finally, there are “smart” treadmills, which incorporate advanced sensors and tracking technology to provide users with real-time feedback during workouts. These machines are ideal for people who want to closely monitor their progress and optimize their training routine.

Fun Facts About Treadmills

  • The first treadmill was used in ancient Rome to lift heavy objects.
  • Treadmills were used as a form of punishment for prisoners in England in the 19th century.
  • The first motorized treadmill was invented in the 1960s.
  • It was designed to be powered by horses, not humans.
  • The world record for the longest distance run on a treadmill in 24 hours is 258.2 km.


The history of treadmills is a long and fascinating one, filled with innovation, adversity, and ultimately, success. From the ancient treadwheels of Rome to the advanced smart treadmills of today, these machines have come a long way. They continue to be an essential part of the fitness landscape.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, a treadmill can help you reach your fitness goals. They improve your overall health and well-being. So, the next time you step onto a treadmill, take a moment to look at its history. Know the innovation behind this essential exercise machine in order to appreciate it better.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

Similar Posts