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Six Steps to Treadmill Safety

Treadmills are among the easiest aerobic machines to use. Still, you do need to know a few things about safe treadmill use.

  • Use those safety features. If your treadmill has an automatic stop, the option to code out nonauthorized users, or some other safety feature, take advantage of it.

  • Place your treadmill in a safe place. If you have children, put your treadmill in a separate room that you can lock so they don't think it's a toy. When the treadmill is in use, watch for children, pets, or clumsy spouses walking into the moving belt. When you're not on the treadmill, make sure that the belt is stopped. Don't leaving it running unattended — even for bathroom or phone breaks.

  • Straddle the belt when you start out. Always place one foot on either side of the belt as you turn on the machine. Then step on the belt only after you determine that it's moving at the slow set-up speed. Most treadmills have safety features that prevent them from starting out at breakneck speeds, but don't take any chances.

  • Use the handrails sparingly. Holding on for balance is okay when you're finding out how to use the machine, but let go as soon as you feel comfortable. You move more naturally if you swing your arms freely. If you must hold on to the front rails to charge up a hill or maintain a speed, you have the treadmill set at too high an intensity. Over-reliance on the handrails can overstrain your elbows and shoulders and reduces the amount of calories you burn during a workout.

  • Keep your eyes forward. Your feet tend to follow your eyes, so if you focus on what's in front of you, you usually walk straight ahead instead of veering off to the side. Also, try to stay in the center of the belt rather than all the way toward the back or front. If you stay too close to the front, your foot can catch on the motor cover and trip you up; if you walk too close to the back, you may slide right off.

  • Expect to feel disoriented. The first few times you use a treadmill, you may feel dizzy when you get off. Your body is just wondering why the ground suddenly stopped moving. Most people experience this vertigo only once or twice, but be prepared to hold on to something for a few moments when you hop off so that you don't fall over.

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