9 tips for staying safe on a treadmill

Don´t take treadmill safety for granted. (istockphoto.com)

Treadmills have been around so long and we’re so used to using them, that it’s easy to take safety procedures for granted. While most gyms have fitness floor staff that roam the floors specifically to watch patrons and ensure that they are being safe, there are steps we can take as individuals to make sure we’re using the equipment safely. As health professionals, we do urge people to see a doctor for clearance prior to engaging in exercise if they feel they are a high risk for injury/incident or just coming back from one. As for tips for patrons I would say the following is of most importance:

Make sure the treadmill is in a safe location.

While there are safety standards that suggest treadmills should have a buffer of half a meter of space on each side and a meter behind the tread, not every gym, home gym or hotel workout room is set up this way. Take notice if others are working out too close to the treadmill. You want to make sure that there is enough room to safely exit the machine if there is a malfunction. If you have concerns about the positioning of a treadmill alert a manager or staff member.

Inspect the treadmill before starting a workout.

It should be on an even surface and shouldn’t wobble when you stand on the outside edges. The treadmill should have an ‘emergency stop’ switch that you can clip to your shirt.

Listen to the treadmill before you plug in the ear buds.

Grinding noises or smoke coming from the front of the treadmill are an indication that it is malfunctioning. Most treadmills today will display a message on the screen if something internally is not working correctly. However, there are some common noises you might hear that are typical and do not indicate any safety concerns, such as increased noise as the speed of the belt is increased and some minor clicking while raising the incline of the treadmill.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Ask a staff member if you are unsure about how to use the treadmill controls. There are many different types of treadmills out there, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the machine before you start using it.

Plan your workout, or—better yet—let the treadmill plan it for you.

Utilize the pre-programmed workouts on the treadmill if you are doing interval training. Interval workouts are great, but they can cause unbalanced speed transitions if you are trying to change the speed of the treadmill while running. Instead of attempting to adjust the speed manually, select a customized interval workout prior to starting, so that the treadmill does the work for you.

Always clip on the safety clip before starting a treadmill workout.

It might look a little odd, but those safety clips and strings that are wrapped around the railing or stashed in the water bottle holder are actually for your safety. If you fall, it will automatically stop the machine to minimize injury. So it’s a really good idea to use them.

Always stand on the side rails when starting the treadmill.

If there is ever a glitch in the treadmill, you don’t want to be standing on the tread when it happens.

Ease into it.

Make sure you hold onto the handrails when stepping on to the belt, one foot at a time, then adjust it to a comfortable speed.

Listen to your body, know your limits.

Feeling light headed or dizzy is a clear sign to stop working out. You can also utilize the heart rate sensors to monitor your heart rate. At no point should your heart rate be maxed out for a prolonged period of time. If you are recovering from an injury or have a medical condition, check with the staff at the gym so they are aware and can keep an eye on you when you’re on the treadmill.