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Treadmill Safety
Tips to Avoid Injury and Death

Treadmills can be surprisingly dangerous.
Treadmills can be surprisingly dangerous.

Home sales of treadmills have increased significantly over the last two years as the world has dealt with lockdowns and pandemic restrictions. Wholesale sales of treadmills to consumers went from 1.065 billion dollars in 2019 to 1.535 billion in 2020, a nearly 50% increase. They’re a great alternative to running outside when the weather is too hot, too cold, or there’s not a safe place to run.

People tend to forget treadmills are also large, heavy machines with relentless moving parts. They’re so easy to use; most people never concern themselves with the safety warnings until something happens.

And then something tragic happened. A Peloton treadmill killed a child. Because of flaws in the treadmill design, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Peloton issued a recall for all of Peloton’s Tread and Tread+ treadmills.

Here’s the thing about treadmills. It’s a machine designed to keep a very large belt moving, at high speed, while a person that might weigh 300 pounds runs on top of it. The machine doesn’t stop when it encounters a little resistance.

CPSC estimated that in 2019 there were over 468,000 visits to the emergency room because of accidents with fitness devices, and the largest number of injuries came from belt-driven exercise machines.

Look at the back of a treadmill. The belt or tracks flip under the machine. Imagine taking a balloon and putting it between that moving belt and the floor. The belt can easily grab hold of the balloon and pull it under the machine without slowing down.

Careful of getting caught and pulled under a treadmill.

Now imagine that balloon is the head of a small child. Or a beloved family pet. Being sucked under a moving treadmill can turn that tread into a tank-like track. There are numerous cases (and some video) of treadmills rolling over people who have gotten sucked underneath. It’s a pretty terrifying thing.

Click Here to see a YouTube video of what it looks like when a child plays around the back of a treadmill. https://youtu.be/onXNnlCYJ4Y

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to keep that treadmill safer.

Put your treadmill in a safe space. If you’ve got a big house, put it in a room that you can lock to keep children away from it. If you don’t have the luxury of a separate room, put it in a location you can keep pets and young children out of with a protective barrier, fencing or gate. At the very least, make sure small children and pets are kept away from the treadmill when you’re using it.

When positioning your treadmill, make sure you have 4-6 feet of space behind it. This is so you have room to move off if there’s a problem and not get wedged between the spinning belt and the wall. Treadmills powered by your running don’t have this same space requirement because the moment you stop moving, so do they.

Keep items away from the treadmill that could get sucked underneath. Exercise balls have been documented rolling under the machine and bucking the runner off.

Don’t climb onto a treadmill that’s running. It should be off, so you don’t risk tripping as you move into position.

Don’t turn the treadmill on when you’re standing on the belt. Straddle the belt so you don’t get jerked around by sudden movements the machine may make while starting up.

Always attach the emergency clip before you start. In the unlikely event that you fall, that switch will disconnect from the machine and immediately turn the treadmill off. This dramatically reduces the chances of you getting “burned” by the belt rubbing your skin or getting sucked under the machine.

Stay closer to the front of the treadmill when running, not the back. On shorter treadmills, it’s essential. You don’t want to slip or fall off the back.

Don’t dismount from a moving treadmill. You can straddle the belt if you’re too tired to run, but wait until it comes to a stop before you step off to the floor, so you don’t get accidentally thrown off.

Store any keys or switches that turn the treadmill on in a safe space. You don’t want children accidentally turning it on.

You also want to regularly inspect your treadmill to ensure it hasn’t become a safety hazard.

Check the belt or treads for signs of wear. If you see fraying or parts wearing thin, you need to have it repaired or replaced before you use it.

Test the emergency clip once a month. Make sure that if it’s pulled, the treadmill stops right away.

Open the manual that came with your treadmill and follow any regular maintenance routine they suggest.

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1/24/2022
Updated 2/2/2022