Where did older men and women get the idea that the proper way to use a treadmill is to hold onto the bar in front and then hunch over as they pseudo-walk?

It’s easy to see how one’s posture and spinal alignment can be skewered while holding onto a treadmill. Look how unnatural, and even strained-looking, the gait is in the woman shown above.

The entire spinal complex is shortchanged of the work it’s supposed to do when someone walks.

This unrealistic way of walking trains the spine and all the tissues connected with it to get used to a free ride.

When she steps off the machine, what happens? There’s nothing to hold onto.

Her spine is suddenly forced to hold her body up. The muscles in her lower back are suddenly called to task.

Holding onto the treadmill is a downgrade from the baseline of walking she does in day-to-day life.

That’s because the walking we do in our everyday life consists of NOT clinging onto anything for support.

For instance, when you walk from room to room in your house or on the job, it’s ALL YOU.

So when you get onto a treadmill, why would you downgrade by holding on?

Holding on means you’re performing BELOW baseline. You will not derive any fitness or balance improvements.

“I personally use a treadmill for walking in inclement weather, but never hold onto the hand rails because they act like a crutch, preventing the recruitment of balancing muscles, transferring the load from the legs to the upper body, and creating an unnatural walking pace which may actually result in muscle strains,” says 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.

Stand Corrected™

When I was a personal trainer at a gym some years ago, I made it a mission to speak to older people about this really bad, sabotaging habit.

These were older people who walked across the parking lot without the use of a walker or cane.

But little did they know that holding onto a treadmill MIMICS using a walker!

When older people hold onto a treadmill, they are literally priming their bodies for using a walker.

I’d tell people at the gym this, and their hands shot off the bar in an instant. And do you know what else occurred in that instant?

• Their posture improved.

• They straightened up.

• Their shoulders relaxed.

• They felt more confident because they realized that all along they’d been cheating.

These were not people with spinal stenosis. When they took their hands off the machine, their spine straightened out.

In fact, I’d ask them if they’d been diagnosed with any condition that necessitates that forward lean and holding the treadmill. They’d say “no.”

If you’re older and want to preserve efficient walking ability, you must walk the way nature intended: arms swinging in proportion to your speed.

If you hold onto the treadmill, this will weaken the soft tissue involved with your spine.

dr. carpenter

Photo credit: Aleesia Forni

Used daily and over time, the Stand Corrected™ stretching tool can reverse back damage caused by years of poor posture.
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. 
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Top image: Freepik.com, pressahotkey