It’s SO aggravating: You’ve been walking and walking for many months on a treadmill yet have not lost a single pound or maybe just a few pounds, but nothing really has changed with your body.

So why hasn’t all of the walking on a treadmill caused you to lose weight?

The answer is very simple: You hold onto the treadmill.

This is one of the biggest mistakes committed at gyms the world over and also at home where many people use a treadmill.

“They need to engage in compound joint movements while using the treadmill for maximum weight loss results, and letting go of the support causes the entire body to work, not just the lower extremities,” begins Dr. Tom Carpenter, corrective exercise specialist, certified personal trainer and chiropractor, inventor of Stand Corrected™, a portable harness-like stretching tool that helps alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain.

“This way, they’re engaging many more muscles for the same period of time,” continues Dr. Carpenter.

“Furthermore, they could be unknowingly teaching their bodies to be fat storing machines instead of fat burning machines.”

There is no medical reason why an able bodied man or woman should hold onto a treadmill (other than to momentarily check heart rate, change settings or sip water).

When I was a personal trainer for a large health club, I talked countless people into going hands-free. None fell off.

Holding onto a treadmill while walking is not a phenomenon of physically disabled people. Many men and women who hold on are in their 20s, even.

Rather, it’s a doggone bad habit that some people have actually admitted to me they do because they see everyone else doing it!

Just because everyone holds onto a treadmill doesn’t mean it’s a smart way to walk. Shutterstock/Africa Studio

What do people think a treadmill is, an amusement park ride that you gotta hold on?

Many of the women and men who feel some strange need to hold on will also be the same people who will walk up the gym’s staircase without holding onto the rails.

It doesn’t matter what else you do in the gym; holding onto a treadmill will sabotage your attempts to lose weight, and that is why you are not losing that unwanted weight.


Bear in mind that if you do not hold on, but don’t work hard, your weight will still remain stubborn.

Thus, you must BOTH let go of the treadmill AND work hard with your walking.

This means a very brisk pace that makes you breathe heavy, or the use of an incline, or mixing these up.

Get sweaty and winded AND DO NOT HOLD ON.

“To train the body to be a muscle building, fat burning machine, they want to do higher intensity burst training, and without holding onto the rails,” says Dr. Carpenter.

“Warm up for three minutes, and then increase the workout speed to near muscle fatigue for 30-60 seconds.

“Recover by slowing down to warm-up speed again for 90-180 seconds. Then repeat the bursting routine again.

“A total of three to four bursts are usually sufficient. If they are under-conditioned, then they need to approach this regimen carefully and with supervision.

“If while on the treadmill they are holding on, can read a magazine, watch the TV, text or talk to their friend, then they are not achieving the intensity necessary to lose weight effectively.”

With a hands-off walk, your core is engaged. You burn 20 percent more calories. The calorie display is generated by the machine’s settings, not your movement!

Hands-off also means much better posture. This is so obvious; you need not be a chiropractor or fitness instructor to see the obvious.

Hands-off means that your body is doing all the work without the help of the rails or front bar of the machine.

Fast Speed Holding On vs. Slower Speed Hands Off

The faster you go when holding on, the tighter your grip will be and the more apt you’ll end up yanking or pulling with each step.

Simply do not hold onto the treadmill. End this bad habit — which also reduces your body’s ability to balance once you’re off the machine.

If you feel you’ll fall off without holding on, go slower and/or use a lower incline.

If you want to lose weight from walking on the treadmill, it just doesn’t make any sense to paralyze your upper body — which is what happens when you hold on.

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. 


Top image: Shutterstock/gpointstudio