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A Little Treadmill History

Here at we are all about treadmills, and of course saving you money on treadmills! Yet one thing we have never addressed on here is what exactly a treadmill is and why it is such a great form of cardiovascular exercise?! Answering these questions should help you to see why we love treadmills so much!!!

We will first start off with what exactly is a treadmill?! According to an article from on treadmills, “A treadmill is a device for walking while staying in the same place.” Well I think we all figured that one as much. But according to the article, did you know that in later times treadmills were actually used to punish people in prisons?!

Prisoners Using Treadmills

Prisoners using a form of treadmills

Treadmills were used in prisons as a form of punishment to their prisoners in the 1800’s. They were 20-foot long paddle wheels with 24 steps around a 6-foot cylinder. “Several prisoners stood side-by-side on a wheel, and had to work six or more hours a day effectively climbing 5,000 to 14,000 vertical feet.” For what reason you ask? Well while the purpose was mainly just a form of punishment, the mill would grind grain, pump water or ventilate, so there was some use out of this.

Another type of treadmill used back in the day was used to harness the power of animals or humans to do work. The mill was operated by a person or animal treading steps to grind grain.  See the reference, treadmill, mill operated to tread.  These types were used before the development of powered machines that now do the hard work for us. You can get a little more background from this article on pre-industrial treadmills.

More recently treadmills are no longer used to harness power or as punishment to prisoners (although some may find it punishing), they are now used for exercise. Now rather than the user powering the mill, the machine is moving the moving platform itself.

Man Running on Treadmill

What we now use treadmills for!

Although most of us buy the treadmills that are motor-driven, meaning the electrical motor drives the force, there are some treadmills that the user themselves are pushing the belt along with their feet. Only when they walk will the belt move behind them, these are called manual treadmills.

Now that we know the history of treadmills, and what treadmills have now evolved into, let’s go over why they are so amazing! According to that same article from Wikipedia, here are the advantages of treadmills:

  • Enable the user to set up an exercise regime that can be adhered to irrespective of the weather.
  • Cushioned tread can provide slightly lower impact training than running on outdoor surfaces. For calorie burning, incline can be used to significantly reduce impact for a given rate of energy use.
  • Incline setting can allow for consistent “uphill” training that is not possible when relying on natural features.
  • Rate settings force a consistent pace.
  • Some treadmills have programs such that the user can simulate terrains, e.g. rolling hills, to provide accurate, programmed, exercise periods.
  • The user can watch TV whilst using the machine thus preventing TV from being a sedentary activity.

As you can see, treadmills offer a variety of workouts, ensuring you get your workout in no matter the weather. Yet don’t just take our’s and wikipedia’s word for it, according to this article on, which you can check out here, they stated treadmills “are hands down the best machine you can do for cardiovascular exercise.”

They go on to say how running is much more natural, it fits the body’s natural way to move. You have more range of motion, you must propel your bodyweight forward taking rapid strides, or you risk falling off.

Running provides you with a full body exercise from the pushing of your legs to the momentum that your arms are creating. You’ll have to make sure you are doing more than walking on your treadmill, as it is the rise in heart rate that provides the treadmill to be one of the best cardiovascular exercises.


Did you know treadmills were used as forms of punishment, or was that a shocker to you?!

Do you like treadmill workouts? Share with us your favorite treadmill workout?

Written By: Jentry