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How to Use a Treadmill Safely and Properly

Written by Danielle Travali.

Using a treadmill may seem like a piece of cake (or in this case, a healthy protein bar). But there is actually a correct way to mount and dismount a treadmill in order to avoid injury. Whether you use a treadmill at home or at the gym, the following tips will help you be able to use the machine properly.

What You Need

  • Comfortable running sneakers 
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Stop watch (optional)

What You Do

Step 1

Wear comfortable running shoes. Replace your shoes every 250 miles, or whenever the grips on the bottom of your running shoes start to become too smooth. You shouldn't be feeling the concrete or the surface of the treadmill on the soles of your feet.

Step 2

Be sure to step on the platform of the treadmill and straddle the belt. Don’t turn the treadmill on until you’re standing safely on the platform and NOT on the belt. This is just safety protocol.

Step 3

Turn the treadmill on, but if the belt starts to move too quickly, reduce the speed before stepping on it.

Step 4

Brace the handrails and allow your body to get a sense of balance before you release your grip from the handrails.

Step 5

When you’re ready, start to pump your arms. This movement actually increases your heart rate and helps to burn more calories.

Step 6

Warm up at a moderately slow pace until you feel ready to increase the speed. Optimal speed ranges between 5.0 and 6.0, meaning 5 or 6 miles an hour. But don’t attempt this unless you’re medically cleared to do so. As always, check with your doctor or health care provider before performing any type of exercise.

Step 7

Running duration: You can run at a steady, heart-pumping pace on the treadmill for about 30 to 60 minutes. According to the International Sports Sciences Association, in order to obtain maximum cardiovascular / aerobic benefits, it’s necessary for you to work out 25 minutes to an hour for at least three to four days a week.

Step 8

Get intense about it. During your workouts, your heart rate should reach an intensity of 55-85 percent of your maximum heart rate.1 Maximum heart rate is 220 - your age. So, a maximum heart rate for a 27-year-old would be 193. Or you can alternate with five minutes of fast walking and one minute of jogging. You’d do this for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. This would be an example of interval training, which is a great way to “trick” the body and keep it working especially hard. It’s great for muscle toning and overall fitness. Keep in mind that intensity is the key to burning fat and keeping you fit. This is why a 30-minute run is much more beneficial to the body than an hour of walking slowly.

Step 9

Drink water as you need it or when you feel thirsty. Don’t allow your body to get dehydrated. But don’t allow yourself to over-hydrate, either. According to the American Council on Exercise, too much water can decrease necessary sodium levels in the body--especially in very intense exercise (Source: ACE Fitness). In the last few minutes of your workout, gradually decrease your rate of speed as a warm down.


  • Never run or backward on the treadmill. Some trainers swear by it and believe it’s a good way to burn additional calories, however, using a treadmill this way can cause injury. It’s best to use the machine the way it was intended. Look forward. If you lose your balance, lower the speed, grip the handrails and step off lightly. 
  • If you increase speed or incline, please do it gradually. You don’t want to injure yourself.
  • Cool down for about five minutes before stopping the treadmill. Don’t step off until the treadmill stops completely. Until then, walk slowly.

Choosing the Best Treadmill

The right treadmill is better for you in the long run (pun intended!). If you decide to buy your own, however, you may end up spending $1,000 or more. But it’s definitely worth the high price tag. A sturdy, well-built, heavy treadmill is best. Half a ton is a great size. You want something sturdy that supports your body and isn’t rickety or cheaply made. A treadmill that folds up is excellent because it minimizes the amount of space you take up in your home or apartment.

  • Choose a treadmill that offers an automatic fat burning workout option. This is great for people who want a guaranteed good workout but don’t have time to plan it out. Also, be sure to purchase a treadmill with a cardio monitor and a clear LED screen to help you monitor time.
  • If you choose not to buy your own treadmill, take advantage of the fantastic, ergonomic treadmills at your local state-of-the-art health club!
  • The “calories burned” number isn’t always accurate

P.S., According to Julia Valentour, M.S. of the American Council on Exercise, those numbers you interpret as the amount of calories you’re burning isn’t necessarily accurate. Valentour says each manufacturer has a different set of algorithms that interpret the intensity and duration of each workout (Read her article here: ACE Fitness). Hence, a different result on each different treadmill.

Happy running!


Fitness: The Complete Guide; Frederick C Hatfield PhD; 2008
The American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness)

Danielle Travali, MS
Danielle Travali, MS

Danielle Travali, also known to many as the Web and television personality "Holly Pinafore," is a journalist, entrepreneur, and food & wine enthusiast. She is a certified food coach, stress management coach and fitness trainer who studied mindful eating and food psychology. Danielle also holds a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac Un.. Read more

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