Does It Matter If You Hold on While on a Treadmill?

Woman in health club
woman holding on to treadmill in gym (Image: PIKSEL/iStock/Getty Images)

Treadmills are relatively simple workout machines; however, you still need to know how to use them correctly to get the most out of your workout and to avoid injury. Most treadmills have handrails on the sides, which makes it tempting to hold on while you're working out, but for your own and the treadmill's benefit, you shouldn't hold on.

Treadmill Form

You should walk or run on a treadmill the same way you do on the ground. Walk with your head and chest up, abs tight and your shoulders back. Don't walk hunched over or look at your feet; look straight ahead. Relax your arms at your sides and allow them to swing naturally as they do when you are walking on the ground. Do not shorten or adjust your stride on the treadmill. Walk or run as normally as possible.

Workout Quality

Holding the handrails affects the quality of your treadmill workout. The American College of Sports Medicine notes that holding the handrails results in an inconsistent walking pace. Your form becomes unnatural, which may result in muscle strain and discomfort.

Holding the handrails makes your workout easier — it transfers the load from your legs to your upper body, reducing the amount of effort required and reducing the amount of calories you burn during your workout.

The Treadmill

Another reason you should not hold onto the handrails is for the benefit of the treadmill. This is especially true if you invested in a treadmill for your home. Because you do not walk at a consistent, normal pace when you hold onto the handrails, this creates drag on the walking belt. If the drag continues for long periods, it can overheat the motor and the electronics, possibly damaging your treadmill.

Considerations

You may need to hold the handrails in certain situations. If you are using a treadmill for the first time, hold the handrails until you become accustomed to the movement. You should also use the handrails if you have any problems with coordination or balance. Hold the handrails with a light touch. Do not grab them hard or wrap your hand tightly around them. Place your hands lightly on top of the rails. This way you can grab the rails if you feel unbalanced, but you won't create drag or put pressure on your upper body.

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