If you usually hold onto a treadmill when walking, are you aware this mimics using a walker?

You’re training to use a WALKER when you hold onto a treadmill!

The percentage of treadmill walkers who hold on as part of their “exercise” is unbelievable.

This replication of using a walker occurs in all ages, all body types, all heights, all weights, even all fitness levels – in that I’ve witnessed even physique athletes and group fitness class participants reducing their walking routine to what a physical therapy patient does at a rehab clinic.

When I was a personal trainer, I’d tell new clients at their first session to warm up on the treadmill for five minutes. I said nothing else. This was a setup to see if they were “grippers.”

Sure enough, as I observed them from a distance, many had their hands on the bar in front or the rails on the sides – for the entire five minutes.

I’d come over to them in the last minute and start talking about how exercise works only when the body is forced to adapt to a training stimulus.

I’d then point out that holding onto a treadmill doesn’t force the body to do ANYTHING.

They’d immediately let go, looking surprised.

Not one of them ever bobbled, teetered or stumbled, let alone fell off.

Why would you want to simulate using a walker?

Holding onto a treadmill is pretty much the same as using a walker.

The only people who should be holding onto a treadmill are those who needed a walker to get over to the machine in the first place.

Ask yourself how mimicking using a walker will improve your fitness or help you lose weight.

If you don’t need any assistance when you walk in your day-to-day life, ask yourself how supported walking will upgrade your level of fitness, mobility, balance and/or help you lose body fat.

It should be obvious how deactivated her core is as she fake-walks. There is no way that her core will be efficient if she walks at this same speed outside for a prolonged period.

It should be obvious how deactivated her core is as she fake-walks. There is no way that her core will be efficient if she walks at this same speed outside for a prolonged period.

• Hands on the machine means less work done by the core muscles that normally assist in walking.

• Hands on means your body doesn’t have to balance as much. Omitting this function during walking can backfire. If you’re trained at supported walking, then you’ll be at higher risk of losing your balance and falling in the real world where there’s nothing to cling onto.

• Older people almost always hold on, which may intuitively seem like the smart thing to do, but hands on the machine only encourages the loss of coordination and core strength, and promotes inefficient ambulation when there’s no fixed object to hold onto.

• Every single one of my older clients whom I told to let go, remained walking without any loss of balance.

• Many younger adults hold on as well, not realizing that this is a complete waste of time.

• If you think you’ll fall off if you let go, then you’re going too fast and/or the incline is too high.

• Instead of holding on, readjust the settings!

If you want to be more capable at walking, ask yourself how on earth you can achieve this with supported walking.

Gee, if you’re hooked on holding onto a treadmill, you may as well buy a walker and do laps with it at a track. You’ll get the same result: a downgrade in your ability to efficiently walk and stop a fall.

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.