You will gain absolutely nothing by holding onto the rails of a treadmill while walking sideways.

This waste of time may lead to worsening of the posture.

Walking sideways on a treadmill has become more popular over the years, but still remains a rare sight to see.

As a former certified personal trainer, I will point out that sideways walking on a treadmill should NOT be considered a gimmick or fad, as it does have some unique benefits.

I am faithful to including sideways walking as part of my treadmill routines, and this lateral form of exercise (“frontal plane”) should be conducted without holding on.

“Unless someone requires handrail support initially to walk sideways on a treadmill because of health reasons [such as spinal stenosis], holding onto the rails of the treadmill will detract from its benefits,” says Dr. Tom Carpenter, corrective exercise specialist, certified personal trainer and chiropractor, and inventor of Stand Corrected™, a portable harness-like stretching tool that helps alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain.

Dr. Carpenter adds, “Hands-free side walking improves lateral (side to side) stability in regards to the kinetic chain. Think core. The body moves in neurologic/muscular systems naturally, not as isolated movements.”

Now think about that next time your hands go for the rails!

“Any interruption in this kinetic chain, such as holding onto the treadmill supports, will create adverse compensations in the way we would otherwise move naturally,” says Dr. Carpenter.

Ask yourself why you want to walk sideways on a treadmill at all. Whatever the reason, you will defeat the purpose by cheating.

WRONG, no matter HOW many people do this.

Holding on while walking sideways on the machine will not improve balance at all, nor will it promote your cardiovascular fitness.

Plus, next time you see a person at the gym walking sideways on the treadmill while holding on, take note of their posture.

They are bent over, and not just forward, but to the side. This is bad for the individual’s spinal column and it throws gait off completely.

Pointers for Walking Sideways on Treadmill

Begin at a speed that you think is too slow for your liking. You will not trip at only 1 mph. Turn sideways and let go. This is not as tricky as you think.

In fact, think of sports that you’ve played that involve lateral movements: basketball, volleyball, soccer, boxing, karate, tennis.

A moving tread is no different. It’s easier because you are not handling a ball.

If you hold on at a faster speed, you will not achieve anything except a distorted gait. Holding on will remove some body weight, and the legs and core muscles will not really be supporting you.

Let go at a slow speed and you’ll quickly get used to it. Focus on correct posture, correct spinal alignment and square, balanced shoulders.

  • Those who hold on always have hunched up and crumpled shoulders.
  • And their hips are out of whack.
  • The posture is crooked.
  • They will never improve their balance or fitness.

If you fear stumbling then watch your feet. As you get used to the 1 mph, increase the speed to 1.5 mph.

After you get used to that small increase, then raise it to 2 mph. Don’t rush with this progression.

When you walk sideways on the  treadmill, your legs and core really should do all the work for maximal calorie burn (if that’s important to you), best neurological recruitment and most efficient cardio training effect (once you start moving faster). Do not rely on the machine’s rails to do these jobs!

dr. carpenter

Photo credit: Aleesia Forni

Based upon 30+ years of experience, Dr. Carpenter’s practice approach reflects his belief that restoring optimum health and function will enable his patients to enjoy a much greater amount of vitality and wellness. Chiropractic care is true health care, not sick care!
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.