Treadmill Slouchers: Release the Rails!

Treadmill Slouchers

There is nothing worst than seeing someone slouched over the safety rails of cardio equipment at the gym. It makes me want to straighten them out–both physically and mentally. What’s so bad about holding on to the rails while using a treadmill?

Holding the safety rails on a treadmill actually reduces the workload and intensity of the exercise, resulting in fewer calories burned. And research has found that holding the treadmill handrails reduces both heart rate and oxygen consumption.

“The treadmill provides a valuable learning opportunity,” exercise physiologist Gregory L. Welch, M.S., explains in Learning to Let Go. “Letting go of the handrails creates the unstable, yet controlled environment which challenges the individual to work harder in order to maintain proper dynamic balance.”

Welsh adds that a common mistakes is increasing a treadmill’s speed while holding the handrails and walking at an abnormally fast pace. “This is not only an inefficient cardiovascular challenge; it is dangerous because of the ballistic hip rotation and over striding. I have even seen people increase the treadmill’s elevation to augment the workload, then hold the handrails and lean back, thus defeating the entire purpose of the elevation.”

So while some individuals, including the elderly or someone with an injury, need to hold on for stability and safety issues, a hands-free treadmill workout is optimal for the rest of us.

Why does this matter to you? Because fitness is about performing physical work! If you’re holding on to the handrails on the treadmill, you’re probably not working outside your comfort zone, and stepping out of that zone is what produces results. Ask yourself: Where’s the challenge in working out then lessening the intensity?