Although a treadmill seems like user-friendly fitness equipment, it can be dangerous if used improperly.
In fact, it's considered more dangerous than any other type of cardio equipment, including rowing machines and ellipticals. This is according to treadmill safety statistics provided by the U.S CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). Specifically, the United States emergency department treated 22,500 and 15,800 treadmill-related injuries in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
More importantly, about 20% of these injuries occur in children, as the Nationwide Children's Hospital Research Institute suggested. Therefore, if you've got this fitness equipment at home, it's important to observe safety precautions to avoid treadmill dangers for kids.
This article contains various treadmill safety risks that will help keep yourself and your kids safe from this workout machine.
A Brief History of Treadmill Injuries
The treadmill children's safety issue became a major concern in 2009 when the 4-year daughter of the former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson died in a tragic home treadmill accident. Since then, various safety organizations and news outlets have reported several cases of treadmill-related injuries.
According to a 2013 Research, most treadmill injuries that occur to adults over 25 are caused by strains or sprains. However, other injuries like cuts and burns can occur, particularly to children.
The U.S CPSC established that more than 24,400 treadmill falls and injuries happened in 2014. In addition, the commission reported about 30 deaths between 2003 & 2012 were related to treadmill injuries. On the same note, the agency claims 17 treadmill-related deaths from 2018 to 2022.
Moving on, treadmill accident statistics for the years 2015 & 2016 shows that treadmill injuries are quite common among children. For instance, of the 470 fitness equipment-related injuries for kids under 12 years in 2015, 134 accidents were caused by treadmills.
Regarding peloton child safety, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission received over 70 reports of adults, pets, and children being pulled under the treadmill. Even worse, a 6-year-old died from a Peloton treadmill accident, leading to a widespread recall of the Peloton Tread+ & Tread treadmills in 2020. Also, the Consumer Safety Product commission issued a warning of the treadmill's dangers and a disturbing video of a 2-year-old getting caught under the Peloton Tread+ treadmill.
Why Treadmills Are So Dangerous for Kids
Like most heavy machinery and industrial conveyor systems, treadmills are not designed with children in mind. As a result, they're highly likely to cause injuries to toddlers and mobile infants crawling or climbing onto a moving treadmill belt to reach an older sibling or parent. For instance,
The treadmill belt can throw children away from the machine, leading to concussions or larger fractures. At the same time, the parent may be injured and lose balance as the child reaches for them.
Also, small fingers, hair, and hands can get caught in the moving belt mechanism. This can lead to issues like removal of muscles & skin, amputations, fractures, serious burns, etc.
In the case of Peloton treadmills recall, the machines were considered more dangerous to kids. This is because their running belt has individual rigid rubberized treads/ slats instead of a continuous belt. Moreover, the equipment sits higher off the ground, increasing the risk of kids being pulled underneath.
Treadmill Parts That Are Not So Kid-Friendly
The CPSC estimates that 8,700 kids younger than 5 years and 16,500 kids between 5 and 14 are affected by treadmill injuries yearly. More notably, 20% of these injuries resulted in amputations or fractures. Treadmill parts responsible for these injuries include;
1. Power cords
Some treadmills are equipped with console and power cords that are within children's reach. Unfortunately, these cords pose a significant risk to children, as observed in the case of Mike Tyson's daughter in 2009. Specifically, kids can strangle themselves while playing with these cords.
That said, always make sure you mount your treadmill cords so that kids can't reach them. Alternatively, you can use a wall outlet that is inaccessible to kids or use ties to secure the cords so that kids cannot slip them around their necks. Even better, unplug your treadmill after a workout and store the cord away from your children.
Treadmill conveyors feature a moving belt that is usually connected to a metal bed. Moreover, the bed is powered by a motor and looped around 2 rollers (pulleys). This conveyor belt may draw objects in and under the running space when moving. Also, this makes it quite difficult to withdraw entrapped body parts.
To be precise, the treadmill moving belt can be particularly dangerous to kids' hands. This is because most home treadmills feature a large space between the belt and the deck that can trap little fingers.
3. Running track
In most cases, children start a treadmill, increase the speed and fly off the track. This is because they cannot keep up with the high treadmill speeds, causing them to trip and fall off the machine. Moreover, some kids tend to insert their fingers around the running belt edges or between the moving parts of the equipment. This can lead to serious injuries like amputation, lacerations, or fractures.
Urgent Safety Warning for Treadmills and Children
As the demand for treadmills continues to increase, it's important to protect your kids, pets, and yourself from the various dangers associated with the machine. Interestingly, a few basic guidelines can help you achieve that. They include;
1. Look forward while walking or running on the machine
The safest way to run or walk on a treadmill is to keep your head up and look ahead during the exercise. Unfortunately, most trainees, especially those who are new to treadmills, look down at their feet or regularly check the treadmill console while running. This can distract you from the run, causing you to lose balance and fall off the moving belt, leading to treadmill injuries. Moreover, looking down when training on a treadmill affects your form, causing back and neck pain.
Looking down while running on a treadmill can also cause you to feel dizzy, especially if you've used the machine a few times. Similarly, stepping off the treadmill can also make you feel disoriented. If that's the case, hold onto a stationary object until the dizziness subsides. More importantly, always make sure you warm up and cool down before and after working out to avoid such problems.
2. Avoid distractions
Performing various tasks like answering phone calls, reading emails, and texting at the same time while training on a treadmill is another factor that can lead to treadmill accidents. Studies have even established that texting is the main cause of injuries while walking or running since it affects stability and balance by up to 45%.
3. Don’t step off a moving treadmill
A moving treadmill poses a danger to the user and anyone in the area. For that reason, it's always important to ensure that the treadmill is completely shut off before you step off. Also, check the location of the emergency shut-off button before using the machine. This will help you to stop the machine quickly if you become injured or a piece of clothing is stuck between the deck and treadmill belt.
4. Don’t push your body too hard
Pushing your body too hard while exercising on a treadmill increases your risk of injury. Thankfully, most modern are equipped with features that allow you to track your heart rate and other body functions. For instance, you should not exceed 80% of your target heart rate while training. However, the body burns calories efficiently when working at 50 - 70% of your target heart rate. On the other hand, exceeding 90% of your target heart rate can lead to serious health issues like stroke and heart attack.
5. Use Treadmill Safety Features
Most modern treadmills come with various inbuilt safety features, such as the emergency stop system. The system usually comprises a treadmill safety, a panic button, or both. Before you get onto your treadmill, carefully read the instructions manual to learn how to use the safety features designed for that specific model.
The safety key is a device that attaches to one end of the treadmill console and the other end to the treadmill user. That way, the device will make the treadmill stop immediately when you fall to prevent further potential injury. So, when you're not using your treadmills, keeping the safety key away from the equipment is a good idea, especially if you've young kids around it.
6. Don’t hold onto the handrails when training
Holding onto the handrails for a long period when training on a treadmill can put extra strain on your shoulders and elbows. Also, it indicates that the incline or speed is set too high and needs to be adjusted to a comfortable level. Not to forget that it can make you prone to foot & leg injuries or even make you lose your balance. At the same time, hounding onto the handrails reduces the number of burned calories since your core muscles are not targeted as they should be. On the contrary, moving your arms freely is a more natural movement, thus reducing the risk of injury.
7. Leave enough space for the treadmill
If you're planning to put the treadmill in your home gym, consider where you'll keep it. In that regard, don't place it next to a desk or a glass door to avoid getting injured if you fall off the treadmill belt. So, ensure plenty of space between the machine and surrounding walls. Although different have varying clearance requirements ASTM International recommends leaving about 1.5 feet on both sides and 6.5 ft of free space at the back of your treadmill.
8. Keep children away from the treadmill
Treadmills can be very dangerous for children, especially when proper safety precautions are overlooked. Research shows that 1 - 6-year-olds sustain more treadmill injuries than other age groups. While the Consumer Product Safety Commission claims that more than 8,700 exercise equipment injuries are documented yearly.
With that in mind, it's always a good idea to remove the safety key and store your treadmill away from children when it's not being used. Also, as a parent, make sure your kids are being supervised by another adult when you're training on a treadmill.
How Do I Keep My Child Safe on a Treadmill?
- Never leave running exercise equipment unattended. Also, put a gate up or lock the room where you store your treadmill to restrict your kids' access to the machine.
- Don't let kids on a moving treadmill since they can easily fall and get burn injuries or concussions.
- Keep the treadmill cords in an area young kids can't access to avoid any risk of strangulation or choking on them.
- Always keep the equipment facing toward the room entrance. That way, you will easily see if any kids leave or enter the room.
- Always use the safety key when training on a treadmill. More importantly, store that key in safe area kids cannot reach when you're done with your workout. Alternatively, you can set a security code on the treadmill to prevent children from starting the equipment independently.
Other Important Treadmill Child Safety Rules
⦿ Make your treadmill inoperable when you’re not using it
Kids usually run on treadmills to imitate their parents and older adults. Unfortunately, they're not mature enough and tall enough to operate the machine safely. Therefore, it's important to lock the treadmill away from their use. For instance, you can lock or unplug the treadmill, preventing kids from turning it on. And if your treadmill requires a cord or safety key to start, keep it in a place kids can't reach.
⦿ Make the machine safer to use
Leave adequate clearance space behind the treadmill to protect you if you fall off the back. Even better, put a thin, durable piece of the mat for the treadmill on the carpet behind, around, and under the machine to cushion any falls. And if you've got a folding treadmill, fold it up after use and store it securely.
⦿ Supervise children during treadmill use
Children who use treadmills may fall and get thrown off the side or back of the treadmill. This can lead to head injuries, broken bones, and other child treadmill dangers. That's why it's important kids are always being supervised by an adult when using any exercise equipment. That way, you can instantly respond and give them a first aid treadmill if any of these accidents occur. However, if the kid has sustained a serious injury like a broken bone or head injury, seek medical attention immediately!
⦿ Teach older kids how to use the equipment safely
If your kid is mature enough to use a treadmill, slowly walk them through its safety features and operating controls. In addition, show them how to turn on the treadmill without a key and how to turn it off quickly if any issue arises.
⦿ Buy a Kid’s treadmill
Lastly, there are various manual treadmills designs for kids you can buy for your younger children. This equipment adheres to kids' treadmill safety standards and doesn't offer the same risks as motorized treadmills for adults.
A good example of such treadmills is the Redmon's Fun and fitness Kids treadmill. This manual treadmill comes with a non-motorized belt and a no-tip design. Best of all, it's ideal for kids aged between 3 and 7 years.
Bottom line, as you put your home gym together, it is important to ensure that the space is childproof. More importantly, keep exercise equipment like treadmills out of the reach of pets and children. Better yet, this will help to keep yourself and your kids safe when exercising at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can an 11-year-old use a treadmill?
Treadmill age restrictions and guidelines on how old a kid should be to use a treadmill are usually provided in the user manual. In most cases, the appropriate age is above 12 - 13 years.
2. Can you place the treadmill next to the wall?
Never put your treadmill against a stationary object or wall. This is because you can easily get trapped on the moving tread belt if you fall, especially if you don't have adequate space behind the machine. Therefore, the best place to keep a treadmill at home is to create an entire workout room.
3. How many kids get hurt on treadmills?
According to statistics, over 2,000 kids under the age of 8 have experienced serious treadmill injuries over the past year.
4. What are the common treadmill risks for children?
Friction burn is considered the most common treadmill risk for kids. In addition, kids playing near or on the treadmills can potentially suffer serious burns, minor burns, or even lose their hands/ fingers.