How to Stay Safe on the Treadmill

Treadmills are the perfect fitness tools for anyone who can walk. They keep you moving in poor weather, help you cross train and let you work out at home. Don't let your treadmill workout become a walk on the wild side, though. Every year, thousands of people land in the emergency room from tripping, falling, or scraping themselves up on the treadmill.  Kids are particularly vulnerable around these machines.  

Follow these tips for staying safe on the treadmill.

1) Know your safety features. Before you hop on the first time, familiarize yourself with the start and stop buttons, the safety clip (which cuts power and immediately stops the treadmill in case you fall) and how to de-program any automated workout functions.  Even if you're a treadmill regular, don't start your workout at a speed that's too fast or with an incline that's too steep.  Make sure your kids or dog can't grab the shut-off switch or safety clip.  Just as many injuries happen from stopping suddenly as starting suddenly.

2) Wear the right shoes. No bare feet, flip flops or any shoe that's not designed for fitness.  Watch out for dangling shoelaces that could get caught in the treadmill belt.

3) Start right. Place your feet on either side of the belt before you turn it on.  Start out at a slow rate and gradually speed up.

4) Stop right. Slow the belt down gradually then hit "stop."  Stopping suddenly increases your risk for falls and puts increased strain on your muscles.

5) Don't grab the handrails. The handrails are there to help you get used to the treadmill.  Hang on while you're getting started or when you increase speed or incline.  Then let go.  If you have to hang on to keep your balance, you're going too fast or too steep, and run the risk of injuring your ankles, shins and arms.

6) Shut it off. It's tempting to leave the belt running when you need to answer the phone or go to the bathroom.  Don't do it.  Most treadmills have a "pause" option.  If they don't, stop the treadmill completely and re-start. 

7) It's not a toy. Small kids think treadmills are tons of fun but they're dangerous and a major cause of tripping, falls, scrapes, strangulation and even death for young children.  Make sure your children can't turn it on when you're not watching and keep your treadmill in a locked room.      

Mike Ceja, certified fitness instructor in Portland, OR sums it up for us. "Treadmills are user-friendly as long as you're aware of safety precautions like the emergency stop button and the safety "leash" [clip]. Watch out for auto-start programs that can be hazardous if, for example, they start your workout too fast. Also, be aware that even a small amount of elevation increases the demand on the exerciser substantially. The trick: Start slow, feel your way through each setting."