Ever wonder what the top three reasons are that people hold onto a treadmill when walking or even jogging?

As a personal trainer, I just hate when people hold onto a treadmill. Even before I became a trainer, I just intuitively knew that this was so very wrong.

Based on speaking to a lot of people about this issue, I’ve come up with what are probably the top three reasons people hold onto a treadmill, though I’m not sure what order they should be in.

#1. Fear of “falling off”

#2. Everyone else does it

#3. The rails and bar are there.

I’ve heard of other reasons. One woman said she was afraid that the power would go out in the gym, shut down the tread and throw her off. Other people hold on so that they can read their magazines and books.

If you were to ask every person who does this why they do it, how many would you have to ask before someone told you they had multiple sclerosis or a diagnosed vertigo problem?

You’d have to ask a LOT. The vast majority of people who hold onto a treadmill do not have medical conditions that put them at risk for falling if they let go.

One way you can know this for sure is if you become even vaguely acquainted with such a person’s gym habits, which is easy to do if you see them at the gym even just a few times. Because sooner or later you’ll just happen to notice them performing some kind of exercise that requires a lot more balance and steadiness than walking on a treadmill without holding on.

Another reason people might give for holding onto a treadmill is, “I’m old.” I once saw a senior citizen lady doing one-leg balancing exercises…after she used a treadmill, during which she had been holding onto it!

While being “old” may at first seem like a smart excuse for holding onto a treadmill, it doesn’t seem to be a problem when a senior citizen decides to walk a 5K or even jog a 10K, ski, walk an 18-hole hilly golf course, go hiking, practice tai chi or do walking lunges. Very interesting.

If being scared of falling off is a legitimate reason for holding onto a treadmill, does the legitimacy of this reason change when the user is a scruffy looking man who rode in on a motorcycle and has a few skull tattoos and facial piercings, as opposed to a doe-eyed young woman with rose-petal-smooth skin, a soft voice and who smells like flowers?

These “scared” people have no problem walking up and down a flight of stairs without holding onto the rails, but feel a need to hold onto a treadmill. That third reason I cited—the mere presence of the rails and bar—is responsible for making people feel incompetent on a moving tread.

It puts the idea in their head that they should hold on. The manufacturer puts the rails there so people won’t fall off, but this doesn’t mean you should hold on throughout the entire session. The rails being there are sort of akin to a blow-drier that has a sticker on it saying, “Don’t submerge in water when in use.”

Another reason people hold onto a treadmill—unfortunately—is because their personal trainer told them to! These are poor personal trainers who don’t know how to empower a client.

My goal as a trainer is to develop a client’s coordination and balance, not reduce these by having them support themselves by holding onto a treadmill – which amounts to merely going through the motions of walking; it’s not true walking.

There is no good reason to hold onto a treadmill unless you’re at risk of falling when you’re NOT on the machine.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.