Men and women 50 and over who want to lose weight will not get good results holding onto a treadmill. This is really simple to understand.

  • Think of how you walk in normal daily life: not holding onto anything (carrying something is not the same as holding ONTO a fixed object for support).
  • When you hold onto a treadmill, you’re performing below your baseline everyday walk.
  • Since you’re below baseline, how will you lose weight?
  • Weight loss is triggered when a new demand is imposed upon the body–a demand that it is NOT accustomed to; a demand that makes it work harder than what it’s used to.
  • Are you working harder than what your body is used to when you hold onto the treadmill when walking? The answer is NO, even if you have a high incline. Because the higher the incline, the tighter you’ll hold on! Even a loose hold will sabotage your weight loss efforts.
  • To lose weight, you must impose a stimulus that makes your body think, “Whoa! What’s going on? I have to work harder than I’m used to!” This increased oxygen demand on your body will trigger weight loss.

Had your 50th birthday?

If you’re 50 and better, these rules apply just the same. I see many older people walking in the parking lot of the gym without any problem, and then board a treadmill, only to hold on for their entire “walking” session.

This makes absolutely no sense. You will not lose much weight, if any. You will look the same six months from now.

If a hands-free walk makes you feel unsteady, then you’re going too fast.

If you must slow down so much to avoid this unsteadiness, that you believe that such a slow walk won’t burn many calories—you’re right; a slow walk won’t trigger weight loss.

But this slow walk, to help the 50+ person adapt to walking on a treadmill without holding on, is not for weight loss.

It’s to ACCLIMATE the body to a hands-free walk, and this slow walk is thus ONLY TEMPORARY.

In no time you’ll be able to walk at much faster speeds. And with an incline. It’s like learning how to bench press.

You’d start out with a very light bar, but over time, your body will get more adapted to a heavier bar. Same with walking without holding onto a treadmill.

Start out slowly, and as you feel ready, increase the speed a little bit here, a little bit there.

As a former certified personal trainer some years ago, I’ve had clients over 50 walking like soldiers on a treadmill without holding on!

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.