In this post, we are going to talk about treadmills. More specifically about treadmill safety. Read on to find out the requirements of safe treadmills for seniors.
Since the 1970s modern treadmills have been a piece of common exercise equipment in every gym. They are also a very common home exercise machine.
Before the modern powered treadmills were actually developed for work. They were used to harness the power of animals or humans to power machinery. Manual treadmills have been used as exercise machines in the past but the invention of electrically powered treadmills truly made them popular.
Treadmills offer a way to do a simple exercise in the safety of your own home or the gym just like exercise bikes. Running is generally more effective than cycling, so treadmills are popular for a reason. They also allow you to practice running during the winter when the weather doesn’t allow you to do your regular training.
For seniors, treadmills can be a great way to get exercise at home when the weather outside is slippery. Naturally, they can be used for walking as well. Treadmills can, however, be a bit dangerous to seniors if they are not specifically designed with certain safety precautions.
This is because using treadmills requires a certain amount of balance and coordination, especially when you use them for running. If you stumble or have abort running for one reason or another at full speed, it’s possible to fall with catastrophic consequences.
We’ve all seen the videos where someone falls on a treadmill at full speed and is hurled backward at speed. Here’s a good example by jmaxsparks on YouTube (content not created or owned by ElderStrength.com):
Even though the guy in the video seemed to survive the fall without injuries, taking a stumble like that can be very serious for older people.
Benefits of using a treadmill for seniors
Walking, jogging, and running are a form of aerobic endurance exercise. A treadmill allows you to do these activities at home or at the gym in a safe controlled environment.
While it’s generally recommended to go outside for a walk or jog, that is not always possible. Due to weather, your location, safety, mental or physical health, etc. Whatever the reason, the treadmill is a good option for getting your daily exercise in.
Aerobic exercise is important for seniors because it improves cardiovascular health, metabolism, circulation, recovery and mental health. Aerobic exercise is also associated with anti-aging and longevity, so it’s very important as you get older.
A common recommendation for seniors is to do 2 or 3 strength workout sessions and 2 or 3 aerobic workout sessions every week. The aerobic workouts don’t have to be long. But it’s important you do them one way or another to maintain and improve your health.
Using a treadmill work just as well as regular walking or cycling on an exercise bike or a real bike. It’s truly a matter of preference. Walking and running can be a little bit more strenuous and more effective on average than cycling. Although you can cycle hard as well to increase the workout impact.
Most treadmills offer a way to track your workouts and heart rate, so it’s very easy to follow your progress over time. This is something that is very useful if you want to focus on improving your endurance. Or love to gather data on your workouts and health. For health benefits, this is not mandatory and a simple fitness tracker can essentially do the same thing. I think the best fitness tracker for seniors with a heart rate monitoring is the Fitbit Charge.
Another common use of treadmills is rehabilitation. If you are recovering from a stroke, accident or surgery, a treadmill can help you re-learn, improve and maintain your ability to walk.
Treadmills are also super easy to set up and use. Once you have everything set up, you need minimal equipment. A pair of high-quality running shoes are generally all you need.
There are several safety considerations with treadmills for seniors. With typical running treadmills, the greatest risk is of course falling. All it takes is one misplaced step, losing concentration or an open shoelace to send you whirling to the wall behind you.
Without adequate safety precautions, this can obviously be very dangerous. Using a treadmill for older people should always have the following safety precautions in check:
The first safety precaution is speed. For older people maintaining balance and stability becomes harder at higher speeds. You can’t really do sprint speed running while holding to the handlebars for stability either.
This is why seniors shouldn’t get a treadmill that is designed for high-speed running. Walking and jogging speed are enough. Of course, you don’t have to use a treadmill at a maximum speed. But it’s surprisingly easy to ramp up the speed without noticing it. Until it’s too late that is. You can also accidentally increase the speed, panic and end up falling.
So the first safety tip is to get a treadmill that is designed with seniors in mind speed-wise. There is no reason to pay extra for a higher maximum pace if you are not using it.
The second important safety precaution is safety handles. In many treadmills, they are very short and if you lose your balance and try to get a grip for support, it’s easy to miss them.
The safety handles have two important functions. To offer a point of support while speeding up the treadmill and to offer a point of support in case of an accident like falling.
For seniors, it would be best to have as long safety arms as possible for increased safety. They allow you to take support as well as prevent you from falling sideways from the treadmill.
Killswitch, safety switch, safety key, this feature has many names but the function is essentially the same. It’s a simple switch that is connected to you with a string. In case you fall or stumble too far from the control panel, the string will activate the switch and immediately cut power to the treadmill.
This prevents the tread from throwing you at speed behind the treadmill in case you do fall and don’t manage to grab hold of the safeties. The kill switch is probably the most important safety feature in a treadmill for seniors.
Now that we know the safety requirements of treadmills for seniors, let’s look at the types of treadmills.
Types of treadmills
There are essentially two types of treadmills: Powered and manual. With powered treadmills, the tread is run by an electronic motor and the user simply walks or runs over it. This resembles very closely regular running or walking. Of course, there is the obvious difference that you are staying in place and the ground is moving and not vice versa.
Manual treadmills are a bit different in the sense that in them you are the motor. There is a resistance in the treadmill and you turn it with every step. This feels a bit different from regular walking but is just as effective and very good for improving gait strength as well. The benefit of a manual treadmill is a much simpler and smaller construction without the need for power.
The incline mechanism is also something that varies with treadmills. The very basic ones don’t have any kind of incline mechanism so they only offer a horizontal experience.
Most powered treadmills offer an automated mechanism for adjusting the incline. Naturally, making the incline higher will make the exercise tougher. This is because walking on an incline is just like walking uphill.
Even though you are not actually increasing your altitude, you are actually doing the work to maintain your altitude on every step on the treadmill.
Some treadmills even offer the option to walk in a decline. The decline, of course, makes the work easier but as you likely know, walking a steep incline will activate completely different muscles in your gait.
Let’s look at the best options for a safe treadmill for seniors!
The best safe treadmill for seniors
We searched for the best options for safe treadmills intended for seniors. We have two recommendations for powered treadmills and one recommendation for an unpowered treadmill. Without further ado, let’s look at the treadmill!
GYMAX Treadmill for Seniors and Elders W/Extra-long Handles (click the link for best price)
Our first recommendation is the Gymax treadmill that is designed for seniors with extra-long safety handles that offer added support and allow you to walk steadily. The treadmill also features a safety key you can hook to yourself and it also has an additional emergency stop button for added safety. So the Gymax treadmill has all the safety features we discussed earlier.
Besides safety, the treadmill is high quality and built with a solid reinforced steel frame. It also features a wide running belt that provides steadiness for seniors in the workout. The device also has foot pads that protect your flooring and keep the treadmill safely secured on its place when used.
The control panel features easy to read LED screen that indicates distance, calories, speed and time that make it easy to follow your workouts effectively.
Goplus Electric Treadmill for Seniors Elders 0.6-4 MPH Adjustable Speed W/Extra-Long Handles
Our second recommendation is the Goplus electric treadmill for seniors. It’s very similar to the Gymax in that it features long safety handles that surround the running belt. It also features a similar safety key system the Gymax has. So this treadmill also features all the essential safety features.
The frame is made out of high-quality steel with 220 lbs capacity and a wide belt for a more comfortable and sturdy experience. It also features foot pads that protect your floor. The screen on the control unit displays distance, calories, speed, time and keeps track of your workouts.
With these two it’s really a matter of preference and we recommend you get the one that you can find for cheaper or more easily delivered to you.
Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual treadmill for the elderly
Our last recommendation for a treadmill is an unpowered manual one. This simple manual treadmill features a quiet magnetic resistance with 8 levels of resistance to scale your workout levels. It has a fixed slight incline, which makes using a manual treadmill easier than it being horizontal.
The computer unit includes speed, distance, calories and time functions. The machine features a simple locking pin mechanism and wheel for moving it around, so you can easily put it away. This is a huge plus if you don’t have too much room.
Safe Treadmills For Seniors – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are treadmills safe to use with arthritis?
A: Generally speaking using treadmills is not wise with arthritis, especially if you have arthritis anywhere in your legs including hips, knees, ankles, and toes. This is because running or jogging on a treadmill is a high-impact exercise that can aggravate arthritis.
That said, slow pace walking, especially on a manual treadmill can be a great way to improve circulation and strengthen the muscles around the inflamed joints, reducing pain and inflammation.
A recumbent exercise back can also be a good option for arthritis. You can learn more about this in the article Best Recumbent Bike For Seniors With Arthritis [With Tips]
Q: What type of treadmill is the safest for seniors?
A: Manual treadmills that don’t have an external motor for turning the tread are the safest option for seniors. This is because the greatest risk of using a treadmill is falling down.
A powered treadmill can be surprisingly dangerous if you misstep at high speed or if you accidentally increase the speed too high. It’s possible to panic and increase the speed even further which can cause you to fall down.
Q: Are treadmills good exercise for seniors?
A: Yes! Treadmills are great for improving cardiovascular health, balance, and endurance. They also help you to keep the bare minimum strength levels on your legs. They can also help you improve your gait and walking ability after being bedridden for a long time, like after surgery.
Treadmills should never be your only form of exercise and should always be combined with some form of strength training.
I hope you found these recommendations for the 3 safe treadmills for seniors useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you soon!
Treadmills are a good way to do your aerobic exercise at home at an affordable price. They are a good option for an exercise bike as well. If you enjoy walking and jogging more than cycling or need to improve your gait to maintain stable walking ability, the treadmill is the right decision.
If you decide to get a treadmill, it’s important to pay attention to the safety details we discussed earlier. The treadmill should be designed for seniors and it should have extended safety arms, a safety key, and limited maximum speed.
When these things are taken into consideration, a treadmill is a perfectly safe and effective way to get some aerobic exercise. Just don’t forget to do your strength training as well!
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See you next time!