Are you a regular treadmill user? Do you know how to stay safe while using it? Treadmills are a popular piece of equipment for indoor workouts, but they can also be dangerous if not used correctly.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 24,400 treadmill-related injuries in 2014 alone. Most of these injuries were caused by falls, trips, and equipment malfunctions.

To avoid becoming a part of this statistic, it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards and take necessary precautions while using the treadmill.

In this article, we will discuss the top safety tips to follow to ensure a safe and injury-free workout on the treadmill. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, these tips will help you get the most out of your workout while staying safe.

What are the risks of treadmill injuries?

Treadmills are popular exercise equipment for indoor fitness activities. While they provide benefits such as convenience and controlled workout conditions, they come with certain risks of injuries.

According to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2014), common running injuries include foot injuries, stress fractures and shin splits. The same can be assumed for treadmill injuries.

Overview of common treadmill injuries

Being aware of potential injuries is crucial for avoiding them and staying healthy while using a treadmill.

Here is an overview of common treadmill injuries you should be aware of:

1. Shin splints – This is a type of pain that occurs in the shins due to repeated stress on the lower legs.

2. Ankle pain – Running at a high speed or incline can put undue stress on the ankles, leaving users susceptible to pain.

3. Knee pain – Improper form, such as striking the ground with the heel instead of the midfoot, can lead to knee pain.

4. Hip injury – This is a rare but serious injury that can occur if the user slips on the treadmill belt or falls off the machine while running. It can cause severe pain and long-lasting effects.

5. Neck pain – Looking down or hunching over the display panel while exercising can lead to neck pain.

6. Strained muscles – Overexertion can easily cause muscle strain, especially if the user is new to working out or has not warmed up enough.

7. Stress fractures – Repetitive stress on the bones can cause stress fractures.

Any pain or discomfort felt during treadmill exercise should be taken seriously, and the user should stop exercising immediately if this occurs.

Proper Form Treadmill

Understanding the Causes of Treadmill Injuries

Treadmill injuries are common when using this exercise equipment. Understanding the causes of treadmill injuries can help you prevent them and enjoy a safe workout.

In this section, we will explore the different causes of treadmill injuries and how to avoid them.

Poor Form & Muscle Strains

Poor form during exercise can occur due to fatigue, lack of warm-up, or improper adjustment of equipment to our body type. This can lead to muscle strains or exacerbate existing strains.

Recent research studies have shown that poor form while exercising on a treadmill is one of the major causes of various injuries.

In fact, in 2016, a study conducted by Richard B. Souza PT, PhD, ATC, CSCS found that running biomechanics and form are two key factors in determining the development of injuries.

Proper running form is important when using a treadmill to prevent impact injuries. This includes maintaining correct posture and foot movement, as well as incorporating range-of-motion exercises into your workout routine.

Cold Muscles & Exercise Equipment Malfunction

When it comes to using a treadmill, injuries caused by cold muscles and exercise equipment malfunction are among the most common. Fortunately, such injuries can often be easily prevented by following a few simple steps.

Cold muscles can lead to injury when using a treadmill, so it is important to warm up with range of motion exercises to increase blood flow and prepare the muscles.

According to a systemic review published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport in 2006, warming up before physical activity can reduce the risk of muscle injuries.

In addition to warming up, it is also crucial to check the exercise equipment for malfunctions before using it. Exercise equipment malfunction can lead to serious injuries such as hip injury, knee pain, severe pain, and foot injury.

Therefore, you should check and troubleshoot any problems quickly to prevent potential injuries. One way to do this is to make sure that the treadmill belt is securely fastened and functioning correctly. Also, ensure that the safety features such as the safety key are working correctly. An emergency safety key should be present in every modern treadmill.

Improper Safety Features and Natural Positioning on Treadmills

To ensure safe usage of treadmills, it is essential to ensure that the proper safety features are in place. These include safety keys and clips that stop the machine in case of an emergency.

Proper natural positioning while using the treadmill is also essential for injury prevention. Maintaining a natural and upright posture, with feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides, can reduce the likelihood of suffering from muscle strains, ankle pain, and neck pain.

Also, adjusting the incline and speed as per your fitness level is crucial. Starting at a slower pace and gradually increasing your speed over time allows your body to adjust to the stress. According to a study by Agresta et al. published in Gait & Posture in 2019, runners with higher levels of fitness and experience were better able to protect themselves against injury than less-fit runners.

5 Tips for Injury Prevention while on the Treadmill

1. Wear Proper Workout Gear When Using a Treadmill

First and foremost, invest in moisture-wicking and breathable clothing. Clothing made of dry-fit material is a great option to keep you dry and comfortable during your workout. Sweat-soaked clothing can lead to uncomfortable chafing and skin irritation which can distract you from your workout.

You should also avoid wearing baggy clothing or loose jewellery that could get caught on the treadmill belt or control panel. Tight-fitted clothing, such as leggings and fitted shorts or tops, provides the best range of motion and lessens the likelihood of getting caught in the equipment.

Select athletic shoes that have good support and cushioning to avoid injuring the foot and ankle. Make sure the shoes fit well to prevent any instability, which can lead to an unnatural stride pattern.

A systemic review by Sun et al. published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2020 stated that proper footwear can reduce the risk of developing stress fractures and improve running efficiency.

2. Warm Up Adequately before Beginning Exercise on a Treadmill

Before embarking on an exercise routine on the treadmill, it is essential to warm up adequately. Doing so prepares the body for exercise and reduces the likelihood of injury caused by abrupt, intense movements. Warming up before working out on the fitness equipment allows the body to adjust to the increased physical demands and avoid unnecessary stress on the body.

One critical benefit of warming up is the increased blood flow to the muscles. A warm-up routine increases body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate, which, in turn, increases blood flow to the muscles. This increased blood flow ensures that the muscles have the necessary oxygen and nutrients for proper functioning during exercise.

Consequently, this helps to ease muscle strain and reduces the likelihood of injuries caused by cold muscles. According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation in 2018, warming up effectively increases blood flow to muscles, vital for reducing muscle injuries.

Another advantage is that warming up prepares the body for the transition into more intense exercise. You can also ease the strain on your cardiovascular system, gradually increasing the heart rate, reducing the risk of heart attack and other cardiac issues. A gradual warm-up routine helps to prepare the heart and lungs to accommodate increased physical demands on the body.

3. Adjust Settings Appropriately to Your Fitness Level

When starting a workout on a treadmill, choose a slower pace than you would typically run on an outdoor surface. This is because treadmills can be a bit more challenging on the joints due to the repetition of the same motion.

Once you have established a comfortable pace, you can start to increase both the speed and incline gradually. By gradually building your endurance, you can prevent exercise-induced injuries.

It is vital to pay attention to your body and adjust your workout according to your personal needs. Do not push yourself too hard; instead, listen to your body and slow down if you feel any discomfort or pain.

4. Pay Attention to Form & Stop Immediately if You Feel Pain or Discomfort

When it comes to using a treadmill, proper form is essential to prevent injuries. Research has shown that following the correct form during treadmill workouts can reduce the risk of treadmill-related injuries (Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2015). Here are some tips on how to maintain proper form while using a treadmill.

First, keep your head up and your shoulders back. This posture will help to maintain your balance and prevent slouching, which can lead to neck and back pain. You should also keep your arms close to your body. This position helps to maintain a natural stride pattern and also prevents strain on your shoulders.

Next, make sure you place your feet firmly on the treadmill with your toes pointing forward. This position helps you maintain a steady and safe pace throughout your workout. Also, be sure to avoid leaning forward as this can put pressure on your neck and back, leading to strains and other discomforts.

Finally, if you do experience pain or discomfort during your treadmill workout, be sure to stop immediately. Pushing through the pain can exacerbate the issue and lead to more severe injuries. Remember that your safety is always the priority, and stopping as soon as you feel pain or discomfort is the best way to prevent further injuries.

5. Check Equipment Regularly for Malfunctions and Troubleshoot Problems Quickly

If you own or use a treadmill for exercise, be aware of the potential for malfunctions that can cause severe injuries. This is why regular maintenance of the treadmill is extremely important and should not be neglected.

Start by looking for loose bolts, worn-out belts, and deck abnormalities. Also, use your senses to identify any strange noises, smells or vibrations. If you notice anything amiss, immediately discontinue using the equipment and contact a treadmill repair professional to help with the issue.


Reference

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (2015). “Exercise Equipment Injuries: Treadmills Alone Account for 24,400 Injured in 2014”. Retrieved from https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/News-Releases/2015/Exercise-Equipment-Injuries-Treadmills-Alone-Account-for-24400-Injured-in-2014

Hreljac, A. (2004). Impact and Overuse Injuries in Runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(5):p 845-849. doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000126803.66636.DD

Souza RB. An Evidence-Based Videotaped Running Biomechanics Analysis. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2016 Feb;27(1):217-36. doi: 10.1016/j.pmr.2015.08.006. Epub 2015 Oct 20. PMID: 26616185; PMCID: PMC4714754.

Bishop D. Warm up I: potential mechanisms and the effects of passive warm up on exercise performance. Sports Med. 2003;33(6):439-54. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333060-00005. PMID: 12744717.

Fradkin AJ, Gabbe BJ, Cameron PA. Does warming up prevent injury in sport? The evidence from randomised controlled trials? J Sci Med Sport. 2006 Jun;9(3):214-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2006.03.026. Epub 2006 May 6. PMID: 16679062.

Agresta CE., Goulet GC., Peacock J., Housner J., Zernicke RF., Zendler JD.,
Years of running experience influences stride-to-stride fluctuations and adaptive response during step frequency perturbations in healthy distance runners, Gait & Posture, Vol. 70, 2019, p. 376-382,
ISSN 0966-6362, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2019.02.034.

Sun X, Lam WK, Zhang X, Wang J, Fu W. Systematic Review of the Role of Footwear Constructions in Running Biomechanics: Implications for Running-Related Injury and Performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Feb 24;19(1):20-37. PMID: 32132824; PMCID: PMC7039038.

Park HK, Jung MK, Park E, Lee CY, Jee YS, Eun D, Cha JY, Yoo J. The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018 Feb 26;14(1):78-82. doi: 10.12965/jer.1835210.605. PMID: 29511656; PMCID: PMC5833972.

Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Running: Improving Form to Reduce Injuries. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2015;45(8):585. doi:10.2519/jospt.2015.0503.

Emma Pyke
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