While nothing quite beats getting outdoors for a run that takes you through scenic trails or bushland, we aren’t always blessed with such paths on our doorstep. If running outdoors means weaving in and out of oncoming traffic for you, then chances are you prefer the treadmill. And, with winter fast approaching, running outside often requires multiple layers, a runny nose, and the kind of blistering winds that make you want to hide under the bed covers forever. The treadmill then, seems to edge its way into prime position.
There certainly are perks when it comes to having a treadmill at your disposal – whether that’s at your local gym or at home – but increasingly, reports suggest more and more people are being injured on and around the piece of equipment, which has raised concerns about treadmill safety. As Women’s Health US reports, “There were an estimated 22,500 treadmill-related injuries treated at U.S. emergency departments in 2019,” according to data shared with the publication from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
According to Lewis Nelson, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and chief of service in the emergency department at University Hospital, “Treadmills have their unique safety risks, such as a moving belt and distractions from the touchscreen.”
But as Natasha Trentacosta, MD, paediatric and adult sports medicine specialist and orthopaedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles advises, it doesn’t mean you should give up running on the treadmill completely as they can still give you a great workout. Instead, you just need to be smart about using it and when it comes to safety, there are some things you should be aware of when it comes to stepping on that moving belt.
When it comes to potential hazards, falling while working out can lead to skin “burns” from the moving belt running over your skin, and often it’s intentionally rough so as to accomodate for better shoe grip. When it comes to falling, it’s particularly concerning when the treadmill is on a hard floor or next to a wall. Similarly, children and pets can easily get caught by the belt, resulting in serious injury.
Dr Nelson suggests that most injuries occur while mounting or dismounting, due to the “need to rapidly start or stop moving.” He adds, “Treadmills are generally safe for running since they provide more stable footing, consistent pacing, and an overall less stressful workout.”
First and foremost, the intensity of your workout should match your overall health, especially when it comes to heart health. Ensuring you’ve got the treadmill set to an appropriate setting is imperative. To reduce the risk of injury, the safety key should always be used which means attaching the little clip to your body. When you fall, it cuts the power off and ensures the treadmill won’t keep spinning if you lose your balance or fall.
Even though you might be working out on a treadmill, you should still exercise the same caution you would when running on the road or trail. That means being present and staying off your phone while running on the treadmill. Look ahead to avoid losing your balance or footing, rather than looking down at texts or emails which distract your attention and lower your eyes. When it comes to technique, stick to running in the centre of your treadmill as running too close to the sides of the belt increases the odds that your foot might get caught, causing you to trip or fall.
As well as that, buying an exercise pad to go underneath the treadmill is a highly effective way to provide cushioning in the chance you do fall. And if you can help it, avoid positioning the treadmill next to a wall so you’re not accidentally slammed into it if you fall. When not using the equipment, unplug it so as to avoid kids or pets getting into trouble on the treadmill.
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