Working out on a treadmill is a great way to get cardiovascular exercise when unable to go outside or to change things up. However, it’s not just about getting on the machine and walking or running. Like anything, proper form and posture are important in preventing injuries. This allows the individual to walk smoother and faster, burn more calories, and get the full benefits. Individuals with a medical condition that impacts posture or makes it difficult to walk on a treadmill should speak to a healthcare provider for recommendations to ensure they can work out without aggravating the condition or putting themselves at risk. There is an option of working with a physical or occupational therapist to address any concerns individuals may have about using a treadmill.
Table of Contents
Treadmill Walking Exercise Errors
A common error is getting on a treadmill with the belt already running. This may seem unnecessary, but many accidents happen when individuals just jump on. To avoid injuries, it is recommended to follow these safety tips.
- Make sure the machine is off.
- Know where the emergency stop switch is.
- Stand next to the base/running deck.
- Clip the safety key to your body to stop the treadmill if you slip or stumble.
- Start the treadmill and set it to slow speed.
- Look at the speed and carefully get onto the moving tread.
- Gradually increase the speed once comfortably on board.
A healthy step is to strike with the heel in front with the forward foot slightly off the surface. The foot then rolls from heel to toe; by the time the toe is on the ground, the individual is halfway into the next step, and the forward foot is now the rear foot and ready for the toes to push off to take the next step.
- This sequence is only possible with flexible shoes.
- Wearing stiff shoes may not allow for the roll-through.
- Stiff shoes force the foot to slap down.
- The body and walking stride become a flat-footed stomp.
- Take a few minutes during a walking session to think about what the feet are doing.
- Ensure they strike with the heel, roll through the step, and the rear foot provides an adequate push-off.
- If you cannot do this in your present shoes, then it’s time to look at other flexible walking/running shoes.
Holding The Handrails
- The handrails provide stability, but natural walking posture or natural movement involves a healthy stride and arm motion.
- Constantly holding onto the handrails doesn’t allow for this motion.
- Walking or running at a slower pace is recommended without using the handrails.
- Individuals will get a better workout at a slower pace than they would at a faster rate holding on to the rails.
- Individuals with a disability or balance issues may need the handrails and should consult a trainer or physical therapist for healthy workout recommendations.
Proper walking posture means the body is upright, not leaning forward or backward.
- Before stepping onto the treadmill, check and readjust your posture.
- Engage the abdominals and maintain a neutral spine.
- Give the shoulders a backward roll so they are not hunched up.
- Get on the treadmill and walk.
- Remind yourself to maintain this upright posture.
- When changing pace or incline, check your posture again.
Looking Down and Not Ahead
- A healthy walking posture means the head is up and the eyes forward.
- An unhealthy walking posture can lead to neck, shoulder, and low back pain.
- Improper posture doesn’t allow the body to take full, complete breaths.
- It also reinforces unhealthy sitting postures.
- Check the shoulders and do a backward roll every few minutes to ensure they aren’t hunching forward.
- Overstriding means the front heel hits the ground too far in front of the body.
- Many individuals do this to walk faster.
- An overstride can result in the foot slipping, which can cause a trip and/or a fall.
- A healthy walking stride means the front heel strikes close to the body while the back foot stays on the ground longer to provide a powerful push-off.
- This push-off provides more speed and power and works the muscles better to burn more calories.
- You may need to shorten the stride and take shorter steps when beginning.
- Then focus on feeling the back foot and getting a thorough push with each step.
- Focus on this for a few minutes each session until it becomes familiar and walking becomes faster and easier.
No Arm Movement
- If the handrails are not necessary, the arms should be moving during the workout.
- Proper arm motion allows the body to go faster and burn more calories.
- The swinging motion can help shoulder and neck problems developed from unhealthy postures.
- The legs only move as fast as the arms do.
- To speed up the legs, speed up the arms.
Going Too Fast
- Go only as fast as the body can go while maintaining proper walking posture and form.
- If overstriding, leaning forward, or hunching shoulders begin to present, slow down until a comfortable/maintainable speed that allows the body to walk correctly is found.
- If the workout doesn’t feel like it’s helping
- Individuals with a bad walking form at high speeds may consider adding running intervals.
- Running will create quick bursts of higher heart rate and change form.
- Warm up at a slow speed for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Increase walking speed to a fast pace that can maintain proper walking form.
- Start a jog and increase the speed to match the jogging pace.
- Jog for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Return to the fast walking pace for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Jog for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Repeat until the end of the workout.
- Finish with 3 to 5 minutes at an easy walking pace to cool down.
When the body has fully adapted to a workout, it’s time to challenge the body to achieve greater fitness and stay motivated. This is where workout variation intensity, duration, frequency, and/or mode come into play.
- Add intensity by increasing the incline or the speed.
- Increase the time spent on the treadmill.
- If spending 30 minutes for several weeks, increase to 45 minutes for at least one weekly session.
- After a couple of weeks, increase to 60 minutes.
- Once the body is used to treadmill walking, try to incorporate a session every day or every other day.
- Walk at a brisk pace for 30 to 60 minutes, going for a total of 150 to 300 minutes per week.
Type of Exercise
- Try jogging or running.
- Alternate using the exercise bike, rowing machine, or stair climber.
- Add weight training, circuit training, or anything enjoyable that gets the body moving in different ways.
Set goals and get into the habit of using the treadmill regularly to reap all the benefits. Avoid common treadmill errors, stay safe, and make the most out of walking and running workouts.
Move Better, Live Better
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of Physical Activity.
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