Holding on to the rails or the display panel of a treadmill while running or walking is an ineffective, dangerous and counter productive way to “exercise”.
The biggest reason why I recommend people not hold on while “exercising” on a treadmill is that it makes the “exercise” easier and less intense. That translates into 20% to 25% fewer calories being expended. So while the screen on the machine may say that the user has burned 150 calories in 30 minutes, the true caloric expenditure may be as low as 112.5. And while you may not think those 37.5 calories makes much a difference one way or another…done three times a week for an entire year, that’s 1.7 pounds (5850 calories) of weight loss missed out on just because you held on.
Now I know many of you like to use the incline and hold on – possibly thinking that you’ll make up for the difference. And while it’s true that the incline adds intensity to “treadmilling”, however, if you could see yourself from my vantage point, your body is leaning back – making it perpendicular to the machine! The net effect is that your body isn’t experiencing any of the benefits of being elevated. In other words, there’s no incline at all!
Some of you feel holding on while using a treadmill is safer, especially if you are reading (which you should not be doing anyway). You are EXERCISING! Remember!! Furthermore, holding onto the treadmill alters the alignment of your body in an unnatural way, throwing off your posture and gait – actually increasing your risk of long–term shoulder, knee, low back and hip pain and/or injuries.
Sure using a treadmill can improve a body’s balance because it needs to rely on secondary muscles to remain steady while on a moving surface. But holding on not only negates that potential benefit, it can also worsen one’s balance because you’re using the rails as “crutches” to support yourself. You’ll then be more susceptible to trips and falls when you have to walk on uneven surfaces, step around things or even go down a flight of stairs when out in the “real world”.
At fast speeds, holding on, especially tightly, can raise blood pressure to dangerous levels – leaving already potentially high risk individuals in a precarious situation if they aren’t careful.
Lastly, believe it or not, “exercising” on a treadmill will trick you into believing that you are more fit than you actually are. Therefore, you may think such outdoor activities, like long hikes in the heat or even “doing the stairs” may be in your wheel house. But the next thing you know, you end up in a hospital instead.
So, as Nobi of Sasabune says, “trust me,” if your dream is to get in shape fast,or at least faster, slow down when using the treadmill and let go of the rails. You’ll not only “arrive” at your fitness sooner, you’ll be safer doing so.