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Treadmill Safety - Avoid Common Running Machine Injuries

Updated on August 17, 2014

Safe Treadmill Usage Advice

Treadmills are one of the most popular pieces of home fitness equipment and for good reason. Running machines appeal to both young and old, can be using for walking, running or jogging fitness and are generally easy to use and just plain appealing.

It's easy to forget however, that this is a pretty heavy duty piece of gym equipment complete with a motor, moving parts and other things which can be hazardous to the home user if not used correctly or if proper precauctions are not taken.

Safe treadmill use is essential to avoid adding yourself, your pets or your family members to the thousands of reported cases of both minor and more serious injuries caused by said machines each and every year. Minor knocks and bruises are the most common from misuse but there is a trend amongst injuries to young children with common injuries being severe friction burns from the belt itself.

Here are some treadmill safety tips to help you avoid such injuries and keep your pets and family safe.

Kids and Treadmills Safety Tips For Children

The bottom line here is children and running machines do not mix. You'd make the effort to keep your 3 year old away from your lawnmower and would be unlikely to let your 12 year old drive your car...think of any piece of home exercise equipment in those terms, as a piece of dangerous machinery.

Recently, the Australian government, alarmed by the sheer number of injuries to children caused by treadmills released a series of ads aimed at informing Australians about the dangers and hoping to reduce future pain and suffering. The number of children injured by running machines here in the United States is unclear but several studies at burn care units have reported alarming numbers of injuries to children under 7 resulting in friction burns which have required surgery to repair and in some cases, skin grafts.

Most of these injuries seem to occur when a child's hand become trapped under the belt particularly at the rear end behind the user where you may not even realise your child is even there. With this in mind, parents should ensure their machine is in a safe location, preferably one in which children are not allowed access and preferably, if a door is open, some kind of safety gate is used to prevent their access when it is being used.

Treadmills For Children

Redmon Fun and Fitness Exercise Equipment for Kids - Tread Mill
Redmon Fun and Fitness Exercise Equipment for Kids - Tread Mill

A good option for busy parents who want to work out at home is to look at a kids treadmill as a way to not only introduce the concept of exercise to your children, but also, to allow them to work out with mommy safely. These child size models are specially designed to be used by children and as such have covered moving parts and are non-motorized for their protection.


Wear The Correct Footwear

It goes without saying that if you were to go jogging in the park, you'd put on a pair of running shoes, not your stiletto heels. The same goes with a running machine. Whilst it might be tempting to run barefoot or in your comfy slippers, or slip on your flip flps because it's summer, it's not a good idea. Using the wrong kind of shoes (or none at all) on your treadmill can not only be dangerous if you're running along and your flip-flop slips, but can also damage the running deck which will shorted the life of your machine and add to repair bills. Running shoes also give your feet and ankles the proper support they need to avoid stress and injury.

Don't Jump On A Moving Treadmill Belt

Work up to the speed you want to run at rather than starting the machine at top speed and trying to jump on it. From a stop, start the treadmill and slowly increase the speed until you are going as fast as you'd like. If the phone rings or something simply pause the routine, let the belt slow down and you can come back to it later, don't leap off and try to leap back in later.

Keep Your Pets Away

Sure, they're cute and they do funny things on the belt but pets were never meant to be fitness fiends and the machine presents a significant hazard to them. Yes, we've seen those cute YouTube videos with cats running on a treadmill but you don't want this in your own home. Small dogs (and large) like to get involved with their owner's activities especially if it looks like fun and running on the spot is going to look like fun. You don't want a furry friend getting under your feet when you are jogging along as this is a sure way to have a fall and injure yourself.

In addition, on most models, the deck can be raised or lowered upon your manual input or the exercise routine you have programmed in and you do not want small pets finding their way underneath it when it is in a raised position and getting crushed when it lowers back down.

Bottom line : keep your animals somewhere out of the way when you are working out.

Keep The Area Around Your Treadmill Uncluttered

The moving parts are centered mainly around the floor area so it is always a good idea to keep the floor around it uncluttered. You do not want clothing or a child's toy to get dragged into the mechanism, jam the belt or otherwise do anything to make it stop suddenly when you are using it. Not only can this cause injury to you but also damage the machinery resulting in an expensive repair bill.

All that pounding is going to make a fair amount of vibration around the room too, especially if your treadmill is on wooden floorboards, so you do not want anything which could be vibrated off a shelf and fall on you, or drop off and damage the machine itself. For this reason, avoid placing it under shelving or piling things up around it.

Keep Your Balance with the Treadmill Handrails

The handrails are there for a reason and if you feel uncomfortable or unbalanced then do use them. Inexperienced and first time treadmill users often feel like they need to hold on and whilst you will burn less calories this way it is better than falling off! When you feel confident enough to let go of the rails it will help you burn more calories and improve your posture to do so and let your arms swing freely. In addition, should your reason for holding on be because you are pushing too hard then it probably time to ease up on the speed a little.

Never Leave The Treadmill Running Unattended

It goes without saying that you should never leave it running when you leave the room. There's no reason to, as most have a pause routine function which allow you to pick up where you left off if you should need a potty break, have to check on the kids or the phone rings etc. Either way, leaving it running unsupervised is asking for trouble and it's good to get into the practice of turning it off whenever you are not around.

Treadmill Cord Protection

 The sad case of Mike Tyson's daughter highlights one of the lesser thought of dangers of treadmills to young children and that is the cord itself can be a strangulation risk. If you have a trailing cord then be sure to check into some of the cord protectors out there to make this risk negligible.

Final Thoughts on Treadmill Safety

Most, if not all, of the above pieces of safety advice are simple common sense, but the number of treadmill injuries incurred each year shows it's common sense not always heeded. As with any form of exercise equipment, they are very safe to use so long as you respect them for what they are. Used correctly, and fitness equipment will give you years of safe service and allow you to enjoy all the benefits of working out out at home safely and comfortably and that's how it should be.

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