7 Ways to Stay Safe on a Treadmill

Learn how to stay safe while using a treadmill.

Recently Runner’s World magazine featured an article on treadmill safety, interviewing fitness and training expert Laura M. Miele-Pascoe Ph.D. She is often retained as an expert witness to investigate matters of treadmill safety and fitness facility operations.

In 2014, treadmill related injuries sent 24,400 people to emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Serious injuries involving fitness equipment, especially treadmills, are seen often in emergency rooms, according to the CPSC. They also reported 30 deaths associated with treadmills from 2003 to 2012.

Treadmill injuries frequently include burns, shoulder injuries, head trauma, broken bones, abrasions, rectal bleeding and the development of chest pains while working out on the machines.

The recent death of David Goldberg (CEO of SurveyMonkey), who was found dead lying next to a gym treadmill with head trauma, has drawn attention to the risks of using treadmills to exercise.  Dr. Laura M. Miele-Pasco suggests several safety measures that both runners and exercise facilities can put into practice that will prevent injuries or deaths via using a treadmill:

  1. Minimize distractions by filling your water bottle, setting your music up and making sure your shoelaces are tied. When you begin increasing your speed, focus on what you are doing rather than watching TV or looking elsewhere. If you run, do not multitask by checking emails and messages or taking phone calls.
  2. Be Careful when Starting Off. Use the handrails to balance while you step onto the sides of the treadmill first. Step onto the belt before you press start and increase your pace gradually. Be aware that speed may sneak up on you and you are at risk for flying or falling if you can’t keep up. Go slow when using a treadmill you are not familiar with, doing an easy warm-up before you start running.
  3. Use the safety features treadmills come equipped with. All treadmills come with a safety key to clip to your clothing. This way, if you fall the treadmill key will pull out and the machine will stop. Make use of the stop or pause buttons to halt the machine any time you need to get off during your workout. Don’t risk falling by stepping back onto a moving belt.
  4. Check space around the treadmill. Exercise facilities are supposed to allow 48 inches, or four feet, of clear space behind a treadmill in case of falls. Make sure you set your home treadmill up with the same clearance. It’s also a good idea to have rubber matting or thin carpeting to cushion a fall.
  5. Don’t run too fast. A running workout on a treadmill is common, and often is the whole point of using a treadmill. Sprinting or running too fast, though, increases your risk of injury. Try not to use the top speed settings, but rather run at a controlled pace.
  6. Keep children away from treadmills. Some of the worst injuries seen in emergency rooms are among children who were playing on a treadmill. Keep your treadmill in a locked room where it can only be accessed if you are supervising.
  7. Read the Manual. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to set up and use your treadmill, as well as how often to clean it or have it serviced and maintained. If you have a question about how the treadmill works at the gym, don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Taking note of these safety tips could mean the difference between life and death. Heed these helpful hints to get the most out of your exercise routine on the treadmill and to avoid serious injury.

Sources: USA Today, Runner’s World