Leading US Businessman David Goldberg’s (47) sudden and tragic passing, after he lost his balance and fell off the treadmill he was using, has brought new awareness to the hidden dangers of this piece of exercise equipment.
His death not only sent shock waves through the tech community, but has the health community wondering about the risk associated with this form of exercise.
Treadmill Related Deaths:
Despite the media hype over David Goldberg’s unfortunate accident, there are only an average of three deaths a year in the US associated with treadmills. This is according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has a record of 30 fatalities between 2003 and 2012.
There are no recorded statistics linked to treadmill-related deaths in South Africa. This leads us to believe that, if they do happen, they are few and far between. However, this could also be due to a low percentage of the South African population having accesses to treadmills on a regular basis.
Treadmill Related Injuries:
While actual mortality is low, for those who do make use of treadmills, the devices can be a real source of injury. An estimated 24 400 treadmill-related injuries were treated in US hospital emergency departments during 2014. This accounts for 39% of all injuries linked to exercise equipment in the US last year.
According to Adam St. Pierre, a coach and exercise physiologist from the Boulder Center of Sports Medicine, some of the most common treadmill related injuries are localised to the shin, Achilles tendon and Iliotibial-band. These occur because the belt is moving too fast for an individual’s fitness level, thus causing them to run with too narrow a stance. Experts have seen specific injury patterns in individuals who use treadmills as their main point of training.
On the subject of treadmill safety, Les Aupiais, spokesperson for one of South Africa’s leading fitness outlets, Virgin Active, says:
“Most modern treadmills have a variety of safety features and as long as the person using the equipment stays focused, they should be safe. Virgin Active SA has several safety checks and balances including not allowing children under 14 to use this particular piece of equipment and we enforce our general rule of training in appropriate running shoes. This is very important on the treadmills.
“The majority of equipment has physical safety features: the arms are curved and the surface material slightly textured to assist in gripping. Many of the new machines have a safety cord that you may attach to you gym wear and if you move back suddenly, this detaches and activates the emergency stop. There’s also a prominent STOP button on treadmills that can be activated if you need to interrupt your jogging. The machines are also designed to reduce their motion relatively gradually.”
She adds: “Over the years, machine design has improved and side supports are longer so that you can reach out to steady yourself easily. Treadmills have several different programmes, which the runner can set to match their fitness levels. Some machines have extra side toggles to increase and reduce speed so the runner has extra and immediate control over the speed. Newer machines are equipped with a light warning system: a red light glows at the back of the treadmill if the belt is still moving. Some machines also have a special pressure pad that senses weight and stops if the person gets off the running belt.”
Treadmill Risk Vs Reward:
It is important to remember that the risk of not exercising far outweighs the risk of using a treadmill. It is extremely rare to die due to treadmill use, so rare that the average person is more likely to die in a shark attack.
The rewards of exercising, even if it is only on a treadmill, for half an hour every day permeate all aspects of a person’s life.
We advocate a variety of different exercise, using a variety of different tools and environments for at least a half an hour every day, in order to achieve longevity
Treadmill Safety: The Do’s & Don’ts
Let’s look at some easy-to-remember fail-safe techniques to ensure that you can continue your healthy treadmill exercise regimen while eliminating the risk of injury.
The following Do’s and Don’ts were provided by Virgin Active based on its experience with South African gym goers:
- Do not text or talk on a cell phone while using the equipment! It is a piece of equipment ‘in motion’ and getting distracted is likely to change your rhythm and balance.
- Beginner runners are encouraged to use the arms to balance lightly until they get the hang of their own pace and pattern of running and then start to swing their arms rhythmically to help with balance.
- Eat before you exercise. A low blood sugar can lead to light-headedness and the possibility of fainting.
- If anyone slips off a treadmill or fall, health clubs like Virgin Active, must have an immediate and frequently drilled safety procedure that is set in motion and staff will be there to assist with first aid.
- If training at home; only do so when others are around and aware that you are exercising.