The Evolution of Treadmill: From Cruel History to the Fitness Centres

Treadmill-History and Evolution

Those hours of walking and running on the treadmill and actually going nowhere, happen to help us in being fit. According to the trainer, walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes at a mere 3 mph can burn up to 73 calories.

Just a few minutes of walk on the treadmill feels like hours have passed by, if not exercise, it sure is a punishment! And that is why it was created in the first place. Surprised?

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Treadmill in the fitness centre

The treadmills that we use in the fitness center these days were not invented for exercising.

Sir William Cubitt, son of a miller, designed treadmill to crush grains in 1818. However,  he later suggested that it could be used to punish the idle prisoners in England.

Back then, it was known as ‘treadwheels’– a horrific giant shaft that moved horizontally while the prisoners were forced to climb on 24 steps upward and endlessly.

The prisoners were compelled to work for more than six continuous hours every day to grind grain, pump water or just for the punishment.

Ancient treadwheel

This was the best way to whip the prisoners into shape with added advantages of powering mills in a resourceful way.

On average, every prisoner climbed 5,000 to 14,000 vertical feet, which is around the halfway point of  Mount Everest.

The exhaustion along with poor nutrition caused breakdowns and injuries.

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And you thought 20 minutes walk on the treadmill was a punishment?

Treadmill in the prison
Treadmill in the prison

For the prisoner, it was the “monotonous steadiness” and not the severity of the punishment that made them go wild. It majorly gained notoriety for its cruelty which became viral as a satirical metaphor.

This was put to an end after the abolishment of  The Prisons Act of 1898, which restricted the use of treadmills and isolation for a prisoner longer than a month.

Treadmill Advantages
Treadmill in the gym

However, due to its benefits in fitness, treadmill bounced back as an exercising machine by 1952.  Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s research published in 1968,  suggested that treadmill shows benefits of aerobic exercise.  

However, the treadmill is a double-edged sword which has both goods and bads.

Advantages of  treadmill

Treadmill for fitness
Treadmill for fitness
  • Treadmill definitely gives a fitness regime in spite of the weather inconvenience
  • It is designed to showcase details like calories burned, distance and heart rate of the user.
  • We can watch TV whilst working out, thus fitness and entertainment can be attained together.
  • Most treadmills have an Inclination option that gives a similar effect to uphill training.
  • It also features a custom-made program for consistent pace.

Disadvantages of treadmill

Treadmill effects!
  • Like the prisoners, most of the users complain about being monotonous and causes loss of interest after a while.
  • It compels a strict pace on the user’s, giving an unnatural feel while walking or running.
  • It is not a part of any sports or competition so far. For example, a runner would prefer an outdoor activity as it is more realistic.
  • Treadmill without a trainer could cause personal injuries and friction burns that may require multiple skin grafts and lasting disability.
  • Not being a part of outdoor activity, treadmills do not offer the psychological satisfaction of fresh air and scenic views.

So, next time you are running on the treadmill, acknowledge the fact that you can control it, unlike the prisoners of England 🙂

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