Is a Treadmill the Best Piece of Equipment at the Gym?

athletic black man treadmill

The Treadmill –  It's Versatility Revealed

Sure, it’s not as magnetic as the squat rack or exciting as those high-intensity jumping boxes, but the treadmill is one of the most versatile machines for physical fitness.

You can adjust the incline, speed and it’s easy to measure your results. Some of the immediate benefits include maintaining cardiovascular health, adding tone to your body’s musculature, and shedding unwanted pounds.

Personal trainers use treadmills to help athletes rehab sports-related injuries and doctors even use treadmills to access your overall health.

If you’ve been avoiding the treadmill because you think that it’s just plain boring, then take a closer look at some of its advantages.

Weight Management and Cardio

Regular exercise has the greatest long-term effect on any weight management strategy. When you walk or run on a treadmill you are creating a continuous cardiovascular response in your body.

As your heart rate increases, your body pumps more oxygen and blood. Essentially, this is how you lose weight and keep your ticker in tip-top shape. According to a Harvard University health publication, you can burn 178 calories in 30 minutes by just walking on a treadmill if you weigh about 185 lbs.

For the same person, running at a light pace for 30 minutes burns 355 calories. Those numbers can vary from person to person because everyone moves at a different pace and the treadmill pulls your feet back a bit, doing some of the work for you. It’s not like running on outside trails or pavement, but the cardiovascular benefits are undeniable.

Treadmills Help Tone Your Muscles

It takes the coordinated movement of several major muscle groups to run effectively. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies just know how to do this naturally?

By running on a treadmill, you mainly engage the quadriceps muscles, the muscles located on the front of your thighs. This is a group of muscles that enable you to straighten and bend from the knee.

Another muscle group that is targeted by running on a treadmill are the calf muscles, the soleus and gastrocnemius. These muscles are located on the back of your lower leg and give you the ability to jump, run and walk properly.

If you want to go beyond the muscles of the lower body, you can add some variations to your treadmill exercise. By simply incorporating some light dumbbells, you can tighten your core, biceps, and triceps.

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You can also use the incline function of a treadmill to make exercises more difficult and target additional muscle groups. With only a slight height adjustment, you can workout your gluteal muscles and hamstrings along the posterior chain of your body.

Getting Over a Sport-related Injury or Illness

Getting injured during sports has a detrimental psychological effect on athletes. It’s important for them to continue training in a safe way while their body heals.

That’s where treadmills are uniquely effective. They have fixed settings for intensity level, speed and other variables. This provides a safe, scalable way to get back in action. Rehab trainers and physical therapists can customize light workouts on the treadmill that correspond to their clients’ level of recovery. Then, the intensity of the exercise can be increased incrementally.

There’s also an anti-gravity treadmill that reduces the impact stress of walking or running. The original model was first adapted by NASA as a way for astronauts to exercise on the International Space Station.

The earthbound version encases the runner in an inflatable casing that significantly reduces their weight while they exercise.

Walking on a treadmill significantly improves the life of people recovering from a stroke, as well. It helps to rewire their brains and recuperate their muscular coordination.

Scientists at John Hopkins published the findings of their research in 2008. “This is great news for stroke survivors because results clearly demonstrate that long-term stroke damage is not immutable and that with exercise it's never too late for the brain and body to recover,” says Daniel Hanley, M.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Beyond the Gym

Treadmills are a mainstay of any neighbourhood gym, but you’ll also find them at hospital or doctor’s office for other reasons. That’s because treadmills can be used as diagnostic tools.

Treadmills provide the platform for a cardiovascular stress test. Medical professionals use EKG monitoring devices to measure how your body functions while walking and running on a treadmill.

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First, it gives them a baseline reading for how your body performs in a normal setting. Then, the intensity is ratcheted up to show any physiological problems.

The stress test results are used to determine a person’s risk for heart disease. Then, doctors can personalize a treatment plan that gets you back on the right track or take more proactive steps to counteract your illness.

Ways to Make Treadmill Running More Fun and Effective

Using a treadmill at the gym doesn’t have to be a snoozefest. Here are a few mays to make your treadmill routine a bit more exciting.

  • Incorporate Technology – Some treadmills already have touchscreen interfaces and computers that help you envision what it’s like to run on the Great Wall of China or scale Mount Everest. You can also use your smartphone to gamify your experience. There’s an app called BitGym: Virtual Cardio Tours that uses your device’s front-facing camera to project real hiking trails from around the world. It’s a great way to keep your mind engaged while your body does all the work.
  • Create a Better Playlist – Once you get into the routine of exercising on the treadmill, then you could create customized music playlists for the type of workout you want. You can start off slow and subtle with some jazz and then ramp up the intensity for a fast-paced run.
  • Challenge Someone – Exercising is easier when you have a workout buddy. Why not create a fun challenge with your gym mate? You can see who can get through their workout the fastest or see who can last the longest while running on an incline. The goal is to take the monotony out of running or walking in place.

Do you like exercising on a treadmill? Got any funny treadmill stories? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

About Freddy Blackmon 40 Articles
Freddy Blackmon is a freelance writer and journalist who has a passion for cars, technology, and fitness. Look for articles on these topics and more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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