Health & Wellness

Treadmill risks: Who is most likely to get hurt, how to stay safe

In the wake of the untimely death of Silicon Valley executive David Goldberg, there have been many reminders about the possibility of treadmill injuries.

While details about the death of Goldberg, husband of Facebook COO and “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg, haven’t been released, it has been reported that he slipped while exercising on a treadmill and suffered head trauma.

Treadmills cause more injuries than any other type of exercise equipment, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC estimates there were 24,00 treadmill-related injuries that required an emergency department visit between 2003 and 2012. There were only 30 deaths —about three per year— related to treadmill use during that time. That's out of the more than 50 million Americans who use a treadmill either at home or at the gym, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

But when someone is injured using workout equipment, it's most likely to be on a treadmill. According to Janessa Grave, professor at the College of Nursing at Washington State University, treadmills are responsible for 66 percent of injuries on home exercise equipment. In a 2013 study on injuries connected to home exercise equipment, Graves found among adults over age 25, most injuries were sprains or strains. Older adults, ages 65 or older, had greater odds of being admitted to the hospital from a home equipment injury.

Zokai Holmes, a personal trainer at Crunch Gym suggests how to stay safe on a treadmill.

“You want to be 6 to 8 inches away [from the control]. You don’t want to be right up against it. You might hit one of the buttons which could either speed it up or slow it down.”

Also, it’s important to stay focused while on the machine.

Some treadmill safety tips:

Limit distractions

If you’re talking to someone or you’re on your iPhone or some other device, you may lose your focus and you’ll start to drift [to the back of the belt], warns Holmes.

Start slowly

Especially if you haven’t used one in a while.

Look ahead

Keep your head up and eyes forward. Runners on a treadmill tend to watch their feet, but that can affect balance and cause a fall.

If the machine is going too fast ...

Quickly place your feet on the side rails before trying to adjust the speed.

For in-home treadmills:

Keep them maintained

Follow the manufacturer's recommendation for keeping them cleaned and lubricated.

Keep young children away

Treadmills pose a significant risk to young children. A 2012 British study found most treadmill injuries to children occurred at home. Most injuries to children were lacerations or burns and the majority of children trapped their hand under the running belt when an adult was using the machine.

--TODAY.com deputy health editor Jane Weaver contributed to this report

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