Treadmill Safety for the Elderly: Common Injuries & How to Avoid Them

By kbeveridge

Treadmills are exercise machines that allow seniors to walk and run without leaving their home. Treadmills have many excellent health benefits, but there are also risks involved. Unfortunately, injuries and falls can happen when using a treadmill.

Sprains and strains from falling are the most common injuries to the elderly using treadmills. These injuries usually affect the lower extremities and the trunk, although head injuries are also common. Treadmill walking is relatively high impact and can also harm the hips, knees, and ankles.

This article is a complete guide to treadmill safety for the elderly. We discuss all the common injuries and what you can do to avoid them. By the end of this article, you will know how to use a treadmill safely and how it can benefit your health!

Can Senior Citizens Safely Exercise on Treadmills?

Benefits of Treadmill Walking For Seniors

If you use them correctly, many seniors can safely exercise on treadmills. You may need a dedicated exercise plan, supervision, and practice with the machine to make the experience safer.

Additionally, walking on a treadmill offers the following benefits for the elderly:

What Types of Injuries Do the Elderly Get While Using a Treadmill?

Treadmills can cause more accidents than other mechanical exercise equipment. In the senior population, people usually suffer sprains or strains from falling or misusing the treadmill. Seniors are also more likely to have severe injuries that need hospitalization.

Seniors are more likely to injure their lower extremities (from the hips to the toes) from treadmill use. Trunk injuries are also common in people over the age of 65. Unfortunately, head injuries have also increased in frequency from using a treadmill.

In general, various sprains and strains from falls are the most common types of injuries in seniors that use treadmills. The impact on the lower body, such as the hips, knees, and ankles, can also damage elderly bodies over time.

How to Prevent Treadmill Injuries in the Elderly

There are a few things you can do to reduce the impact of treadmill walking on the body:

  • Maintain good posture. Hunching over can put more pressure on your entire body. Walking with your back straight and shoulders back can minimize strain on every part of you.
  • Use a slight incline. A completely flat surface can cause a lot of impact on your legs. Increasing the angle to just 2% can reduce some of this pressure.
  • Rotate your body. Let your pelvis rotate slightly with every step you take. This rotational movement removes some of the shock from your feet.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. If you are starting a new exercise regime, make sure that you start slowly. A few minutes a day might be enough at the beginning.
  • Wear appropriate shoes. Choose dedicated walking or running shoes that fit you properly. These styles are designed to absorb shock and impact, which doesn’t affect your body as much.
  • Don’t use too much incline. Steep walking can hurt your ankles and feet. This risk increases the longer that you do it, so only spend a few minutes walking uphill as part of your workout.

This video explains how to prevent treadmill injuries:

How to Prevent Falls in the Elderly Using a Treadmill

You can follow these tips to prevent and reduce the likelihood of falls when using a treadmill:

  • Check that a treadmill is an appropriate machine for youIt is not suitable if you need to hold onto the front handles for support constantly.
  • Have supervision. A physical therapist, carer, or family member can keep an eye on your form and help you if you slip.
  • Always switch off the machine before getting on or off. Trying to step onto or off a moving treadmill is a surefire way to fall and hurt yourself. Make sure you are stable and in position before you touch the power button.
  • Start slowly. The chance of falling increases with speed, so don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Begin with a slow walk and increase the speed only when you feel comfortable.
  • Make sure your shoes are tied. Tripping on an untied shoelace is one of the most common ways to fall. You may like to tie a double knot just to be sure.
  • Look straight ahead. This helps you maintain better balance and avoid tripping over your feet.
  • Stay at the front. If you slow down near the back, you may fall off completely by accident. Walk as close to the front of the treadmill as you can.
  • Use the emergency stop clip. It attaches to your clothing and turns off the treadmill if it pulls tight. If you do trip or start falling, it could slow your fall and reduce the intensity of the accident.
  • Stay focused on your exercise. Becoming distracted by your phone or talking to a friend could interrupt your focus and cause you to trip. Dedicate all your attention to your walking until you’re finished.

You may also like to check out these tips for how to walk on a treadmill safely.

Conclusion

Treadmills are excellent exercise machines that can help you get fitter, perform physical therapy, lose weight, and build muscle. However, they can be potentially dangerous, causing strains, sprains, and other fall-related injuries.

To avoid common treadmill injuries, make sure that you understand how to use the machine safely. You may need training from a physical therapist if you’re new to the equipment. You should also dress appropriately, progress slowly, and focus on the correct form.

Treadmills can cause injuries, but that doesn’t make them inherently dangerous. By following all the tips in this article, you can exercise safely and increase your quality of life.


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