How much weight can an obese woman or man actually lose if they decide to take up a walking program, using a treadmill, and hold onto it?
Not much. Perhaps zero. This is because holding on drastically reduces the workload.
As a personal trainer, I forbid my obese, overweight, medium and even thin clients from engaging in this fruitless practice.
Look at the woman in the picture above. You do not need to see this through the lens of a personal trainer or exercise physiologist to understand why it’s so wrong.
Weight loss results from imposing a demand on your body that’s greater than its baseline activity (activity it’s used to).
Holding onto a treadmill puts you at below baseline: You’re holding on while walking!
How would this facilitate weight loss? Or any improvement, for that matter?
Based on my experience in the fitness industry, I have to believe that the top three reasons for holding onto a treadmill are 1) fear of falling off, 2) everyone else does it, and 3) the rails and bar are there.
Well of course there’s a fear of falling off—because people (obese, thin and everything in between) who hold on sometimes have the tread going too fast for their capabilities. In other cases, the fear is mental and has no physical validation.
I’ve witnessed this tons of times, when people (including obese) take their hands off the machine—after I urge them to—and they remain upright and continue walking—no falling.
Next, people often see what everyone else is doing, then copy them, often without realizing this.
As for the rails and bar—yes, they’re there, because the manufacturer doesn’t want to get sued by that one-in-a-million case in which someone falls off.
The rails and bar DO have a legitimate purpose, such as to steady yourself while you’re turning around to look at something, sip water, adjust the settings, or when you stumble on an untied shoelace.
But clinging to the bar or rails throughout your entire walking session defeats the purpose. Even if you’re obese and out of shape.
And if you spot a person holding on who has the body you want—guest what: That individual is just as wrong for holding onto the treadmill as you are, even if you have a hundred pounds on them.
If you’re obese, do not hold onto the treadmill, even if you’ve been doing this for years. It doesn’t work.
If you think it does, then test your theory by walking outside for the same length of time you do on the machine, the same speed. See what happens.
If you use an incline, find a grade outdoors that’s the same level, then go. See what happens.
But don’t despair. You now know how to correct this problem. Swing your arms; use a slower speed at first, then gradually increase it. Treadmill Walking for Obese