Did you know that if you’re of senior age you should not hold onto a treadmill during your walks?
I once told a senior woman that she should walk without holding onto the treadmill. She asked if I was a cardiologist.
Heart health is not related to proper walking form. A fitness professional is not trained to interpret an EKG or figure out what they’re hearing through a stethoscope, but one thing they know very well is how to walk properly.
Cardiologists aren’t trained in proper treadmill use, and I explained to the senior that walking without holding on would promote better breathing and better spinal alignment.
I pointed to the other seniors on other treadmills and said, “Describe their posture.”
“The main issue with an older person holding on is going to be balance,” begins Dr. Charles J. Pelitera, assistant professor of kinesiology and also coordinator of the Health/Wellness Program at Canisius College, NY.
“An exercise program for an elderly patient should be designed with two thoughts in mind,” continues Dr. Pelitera.
“The program should be designed to prolong their quality of life and to further enhance their quality of life.
“It is preferred that elderly people walk hands-free to not only benefit their cardiovascular fitness but also to continue to stimulate neurotransmitters involved with balance and proprioception.
“There have also historically been some problems with some senior citizens holding on and it affecting circulation to the hands.
“This could possibly lead to numbness in the hands and in a worst case scenario the possibility of some type of peripheral neuropathy.”
Look at the three people in the photo above. The first is clearly a senior. The second might be, and the third looks younger.
But look at all three walkers’ posture. This is extremely typical of walkers who hold onto the front bar.
Though it’s possible this shot was strictly a poser photo, rather than the result of the photographer roaming around a gym asking people—already on the treadmills—if he could take their pictures—I’m banking that this is precisely how these three individuals actually walk on the treadmill.
They don’t look like professional models, but rather, ordinary people who were captured on a whim by a photographer.
But whether they’re staged or not, the fact is this: The forward lean is very prevalent wherever treadmills are, especially among senior walkers.
Look at the picture again. You can’t really believe this is the correct way to walk—even for a senior.
When that senior steps off the treadmill…what will support them then? Their hips, low back structures, knees, etc., will be faced with doing all the work of walking, balancing, keeping upright.
This is an UPGRADE from what they just came from: holding onto the treadmill. That’s because holding on is a DOWNGRADE.
The last person who should do downgrade-type walking is the older person.
Holding onto a treadmill will promote less efficient walking, because it does not mimic real movement in space.
It will not improve the golf game, bowling game, walking at shopping centers, walking around in the garden, walking the dog, walking anywhere.
Straightening out the posture will not correct this blunder, because no matter where you hold on (front bar, rails, console) and how straight you position your body—it’s still a downgrade.
Seniors should set the speed slow and take their hands off the treadmill.
Machines go as slow as 0.5 mph, so it’s not logical to fear falling off — assuming that the individual gets around in everyday life without assistance — which is the demographic that this article is directed to.
Start with a slow speed, and increase it little by little. Before you know it, you’ll be smokin’.