Treadmills deliver cardio training in a convenient indoor machine. Whether you’re training for a race, walking for health, or building your strength for a multi-day backpacking trip, a treadmill can help you move forward in your exercise plans, but they pose risks. One accident on a treadmill can leave you unable to work out for weeks or cause permanent injury.
Avoiding Treadmill Injuries
In 2015, a high-profile treadmill death brought home the serious risks of treadmill exercise. Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, was 47 when he fell from a treadmill and hit his head. The subsequent blood loss he suffered caused his death. Treadmills can easily cause injuries from falls if users fail to use caution. They can also contribute to repetitive use injuries from improper form. Before you pop on your headphones and space out on the machine, run through this checklist to keep yourself safe:
- Wear appropriate attire. Wear supportive athletic shoes and avoid wearing baggy clothing. Improper footwear can lead to soreness and injury throughout the body, while loose clothing increases the risk of material catching on the machine and causing an accident.
- Double tie your shoelaces. When you’re running at 6-7 mph on the roadway, you can easily adjust your speed to avoid tripping and falling. On a treadmill, any speed adjustment will happen gradually. An untied shoelace could easily turn into a trip-related accident.
- Wear the safety clip! Many people forget to attach the safety clip that will cut off the machine if the magnetic strip loses contact with the console. If you do not wear it and fall, the treadmill’s belt will continue to rotate. In addition to injuries from the fall, the moving belt can cause serious friction burns on any exposed areas of skin.
- Warm up. Anytime you plan a rigorous cardio workout, take some time to warm up. If possible, walk or lightly jog for a few minutes and then hop off to do a few quick stretches. When you get back on, your muscles will be warm, flexible, and ready for action. Similarly, a cool down period will bring your heart rate down naturally and keep your muscles limber. Walk and stretch again to prevent soreness later.
- Practice technique. As with any exercise, technique matters more than raw drive. Improper technique when you run, lift weights, dance, or kick box will increase the risk of injury and can diminish the effectiveness of the workout. Focus on keeping your shoulders back, chest up, and your head looking forward. Aim to strike the treadmill softly with the middle of your foot (not the heel), and allow your arms to move naturally with a 90-degree bend at the elbow.
- Stand on the platform to adjust mobile devices. If you can’t use simple buttons on a headset to change songs or channels, stand on the platform to the outside of the belt before you look down at media controls.
- Make sure small children stay away from the machine. Small children can suffer injuries if a treadmill’s belt fails, if they trip on the device, or if they play around the machine while it’s in use. Hands caught in the belt can produce devastating burn injuries and serious harm. Teach older children to stay away from the machine while in use, and never allow small children near the machine without careful supervision.Every treadmill has its quirks and operational guidelines. Start slowly on an unfamiliar machine and increase the speed and incline when you feel comfortable with the equipment. If you ever feel unsteady or unsafe on a treadmill, stop using it and contact the equipment manufacturer for troubleshooting, maintenance, or repairs. Treadmill injuries are preventable with caution and safe exercise habits.