5 Reasons: Don’t Hold the Treadmill While Walking or Running.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

About Davey Wavey

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Comments

  1. Jacqueline says:

    Awesome tips Davey! I had no idea :)

  2. Sean Patrick Brennan says:

    I’m guessing that the elliptical machine is designed to make your arms work back and forth and so it’s okay to hold the handles on that one (which I do)? =) Would moving to a treadmill be an upgrade for me? I’ve lost 27 pounds so far using only the elliptical (plus occasional weights + situps + a healthy diet).

  3. Davey,

    I appreciate your tips. However, and this is not a criticism in any way… I have Cerebral Palsey, and have to hang on to the treadmill. If I don’t, I’ll fall off. My balance is not good. Can you give any fitness tips for someone with lateral CP? I would love to lose 40 lbs. I really don’t know where to turn.

    Thank you and again, I love all you represent and hope someday to meet you :)

    Jeff

    • @Jeff: You should try the eliptical machine. The one with handles can work your arms too. If you let go however, your body relies on it’s balance and it can also work out your core. It’s quite safe too with the handle bars.

      • Jeff Fierro says:

        Thank you so much!!! I appreciate you caring enough to respond :)
        I will have to try that! Thanks again!

  4. FargonNemeloc says:

    {8O !!!!! oh damn, i’m not really resting weight from my body onto the machine, all i do is place a finger somewhere to grab so i can know how far im from the end of the band, i already tripped once (in my house with my treadmill which is old and short)… not funny at all.

  5. The treadmills in the gyms and fitness centers I use have heart-rate sensors in the grips, so you HAVE to hold on if you want the machine to adjust the speed and inclination automatically. I used to have a Polar chest strap with the device that broadcast my heart rate to the treadmill, but that only works with some treadmills, and the Polar device eventually failed. The Polar devices are ridiculously expensive; once was enough. :-)

    You wrote, “In the real world, you can’t walk or run around while holding onto a machine.” In the real world, I don’t run anywhere. In fact, apart from people wanting to exercise, does ANYONE run? OK, maybe parking valets, bank robbers, cops chasing bank robbers, …

  6. christopher says:

    i took note of this in an earlier post sometime back.very true-not holding on -you get a better workout-spot-on.

  7. Actually i do have a treadmill in my home, and i used to walk 1HR every day on a speed 5.3 but actually i do hold to the machine, so this makes me also burn lower calaries than usually, as i really need to lose weight from my thighs and legs.

    So can you kindly reply to & as i need a guide and advice, actually i tried to walk without holding, but frankly speaking it was very hard to me, i only bear to walk for 20min without holding.

    Please give me your advice & guidance reagrding this matter.

    Looking forward to hear from you very soon

  8. Jillita Horton says:

    TO JEFF WITH CEREBRAL PALSY:

    If you walked into the gym without holding onto anything, and made your way to the treadmills without the use of a walker or cane, then you do NOT need to hold on.

    The problem isn’t your balance. It’s the speed you choose. Set the machine to 1 mph, and do NOT hold on. Work this for a while. Progress from this point, never holding on.

    Arm bars on elliptical machines are a gimmick.

  9. Hello, I thought this was a nice article. Apreciate you posting.

  10. I’m no personal trainer, but I study Biomedical engineering at WPI it would seem that this gets confused often. According to thermodynamics to move the body at an incline, whether or not you align your body perpendicular to the surface the same calories must be burnt to move the mass being used. Now there is still more calories burned while not holding on but the treadmill calculates the energy needed to move the mass against gravity at a certain speed, not the muscles used by the calves, hip adductor’s, abductors, and vastus lateralis to keep the knee from ripping apart while leaning forward, holding onto the treadmill while at 15% incline at 3.5 mph is 970 calories per hour. Without holding on will boost that caloric burn to 1074, however the patellar tendon will take much more strain due to constant bending of the ankles to achieve balance on a moving yet stationary surface.

    In total, if your doing incline walking to burn fat, hold on, keep a steady pace, and keep dont hunch over. This will protect your knees. If you are trying to work balance, work your core or stability exercises or even better, balance exercises. The treadmill is not a place to build balance, or build leg muscle, just because something is harder does not mean it is better. It is REALLY hard to do a one legged squat with a 135 pound barbell on your back while standing on a bosu ball, but doesn’t mean it is the best.

    If there are any proof of the biomechanics that holding somehow negatives relative physics by holding onto a stationary object while moving an equal amount of mass that takes x amount of energy to move for y amount of time. I would like to recieve this information. I appreciate fitness goru’s on their natural compassion to help other’s succeed in improved physical health, but to be respected as a science, the answer must be train smarter not harder.

  11. actually, when i see people holding on to the treadmill when walking on an incline, I want to slap them because, 9 times out of ten they do because they see so many other people hold on….that’s why when I started working out, i did research about people holding on…AND I DEFINITELY DO NOT HOLD ON and i get a great workout!!….Now there are cases when a person may be handicapped or something….elderly..etc…..

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  3. […] workout – especially if you’re using an incline. In fact, it’s estimated that holding onto the treadmill reduces calories burned by 20% – 25%. It also worsens posture, balance and doesn’t translate to real world gains. If you’re […]

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