The treadmill can be a hugely effective piece of exercise equipment – when used properly. The problem is, many gym-goers make one very big mistake when using it: They hold on to the machine for support while walking or running.
Unfortunately, holding onto the machine has some negative consequences:
- Fewer calories burned. Holding onto the machine makes the exercise easier and less intense. That means fewer calories burned. The treadmill may display one number for total calories burned – but the treadmill doesn’t know that you’re holding on. It’s estimated that holding onto the treadmill results in 20% to 25% fewer calories burned.
- Doesn’t translate to the real world. If you’re walking or running while holding onto the treadmill, it gives you a false sense of progress. In the real world, you can’t walk or run around while holding onto a machine. You’ll have a false sense of accomplishment and athletic ability.
- Negates the incline. Adding an incline to your walk or run increases the intensity. But when holding onto the treadmill, walkers and runners lean back. This makes the body perpendicular to the machine; the net effect is that there’s no incline at all! Holding onto the machine cancels out the incline – and all the benefits!
- More likely to result in injury. People think that holding onto the treadmill makes the machine safer. In fact, the opposite is true. By holding on, and aligning your body in an unnatural way, you increase the risk for longer-term injuries and pain – especially in the shoulders, knees, lower back and hips.
- Worsens balance. Running or walking on a treadmill helps improve your body’s balance – but all of that is thrown out the window when you hold on. When you hold on, you teach your body to rely on an external machine for balance. That’s not a good thing.
If you need to hold on to maintain your current speed, crank things down a bit and let go. You’ll get a better workout – and experience increased benefits – from going slower and letting go, than holding on at higher speeds and inclines.