With gyms and fitness centers either closed completely or open to limited capacity in the year (and counting), there has been a rise in WOFH, or working out from home. From yoga mats to elliptical machines, sales for home exercise equipment have surged during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Whether exercising at home or outdoors, that’s also meant a rise in injuries. More recently and tragically, a child was killed by a Peloton Tread+ treadmill.
“As a reminder, especially during a period when families remain at home due to the pandemic, anyone using the Tread+ should follow the safety instructions and keep children and pets away at all times,” Peloton advised in an emailed statement. According to the brand, the Tread+ was designed for people over the age of 16 and weighing over 105 pounds. It features a safety key, which stops the treadmill when pulled out (this is in addition to a separate stop button the treadmill equips, as do many others, which stops the machine when pressed). This key should be stored away from children when the treadmill is not in use, the brand suggests. (NBC News’ parent company Comcast is an investor in Peloton).
When it comes to treadmill safety, the general guidance is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, said Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC. Safety keys are just one feature that can help make treadmills more secure, especially at home. But not all treadmills have safety keys. There are two types of treadmills:
- Manual treadmills follow your movement and don’t involve electricity and tend to be more affordable
- Motorized treadmills equip spinning belts that must be powered, tend to cost more and offer features like incline/decline and calories burned calculators.
Depending on the type of treadmill you have, consider applicable safety guidelines before buying or using it. To get an idea of broad safety measures involving treadmills, we consulted experts about treadmill safety and some treadmills to consider if you’re on the market for a replacement or upgrade to yours.
Safety tips to consider for home treadmills
No matter which treadmill you have, set it up on a level surface and stand on the foot support platforms for stability before walking, explained Chris Quatrochi, the senior vice president of innovation at fitness equipment purveyor Nautilus.
In motorized treadmills, power cords present a strangulation hazard and should always be kept away from kids, CPSC’s Davis told us in an email. Plugging and unplugging your treadmill with each session might be inconvenient, but a treadmill should never be left unattended when plugged in, Quatrochi said — you should place the power cord where a child can’t reach it. A wheeled or folding treadmill could be a convenient option since they’re easier to store, he noted.
Many treadmills are outfitted with a safety key, which is exactly what it sounds like — when removed, a treadmill will stop running. Safety keys come with a clip that you can attach to your clothes, but you’ll want to beware of pulling the key while working out since the treadmill will stop suddenly and this “could cause the loss of balance and possible injury,” Quatrochi explained.
You don’t want to trap a treadmill into a tight space, either. It’s important to leave some distance around the machine for emergency dismounts, Quatrochi recommended.
While the aforementioned advice can be useful if you already have a treadmill,, there are certain safety features to consider ahead of adding a new treadmill to your cart. According to Christine Morgan, owner of Studio M Team Focused Fitness Training, you should look out for:
- A deck (what you run on) size that fits your walking or running stride. Some treadmills are smaller than others. Look out for the dimensions not just for your space but for your body, too.
- A control panel that’s easy to read — and easy to reach. This is more obvious, but you should be able to easily push buttons throughout your time on the treadmill.
- A belt that is stable and offers enough cushion to provide more support to your body. Experts we previously consulted in our guide to the best treadmills also mentioned checking the maximum weight capacity on a machine.
Alternative treadmills to consider
Given an interest in alternatives to Peloton from Shopping readers, we compiled a few of the best treadmills (each has a safety key feature) we’ve covered in the past, including more affordable options available at Amazon and expert-recommended treadmills from brands like NordicTrack.
NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
A February favorite with Shopping readers, this treadmill features a 10-inch smart high- definition (HD) touchscreen, 12-month free trial of the brand’s personal training membership iFit and incline control, which moves the machine up or down on an angle. It has a 300-pound weight capacity. In terms of dimensions, the belt on this treadmill measures 20 inches by 60 inches and includes a cushioning feature to help reduce the machine’s impact on your joints. Once you’re done using the treadmill, you can fold it up.
ProForm Carbon T10 Treadmill
This ProForm treadmill has similar features to NordicTrack’s — including a 10-inch smart HD touchscreen display and incline control. The treadmill comes with a membership to the brand’s personal trainer membership, which auto-renews with a fee after three years. The tread belt measures 20 inches by 55 inches, with cushioning and shock absorbers that are designed to reduce the stress to your feet and hips throughout the deck. When working out, you can also turn on a built-in fan, which has two speed settings. This treadmill can fold up as well.
XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill
More affordable than the above options, this XTERRA treadmill has a smaller running surface that measures 16 inches by 50 inches. The included 5-inch LCD display can show your speed, pulse, distance and more. This treadmill also features a cushioned deck, adjustable incline with three settings and a motor that’s designed to be quiet. When you’re done running or walking, you can fold the deck up.
Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Treadmill
This treadmill has a maximum weight capacity of 220 pounds. Buttons on the handrails allow you to control when it starts and stops, along with the speed. The stop button allows you to pause the treadmill while keeping the current data of your run in place. This treadmill features a device holder, manual mode option and power-saving functions. Plus, the digital monitor can measure time, distance, calories, speed and pulse. You can choose between three incline levels. The treadmill can be folded up when not in use and moved around with wheels.
Merax Electric Folding Treadmill
One of the most affordable treadmills we’ve seen, this Merax option is designed to be quiet. It features an LCD display that can track time, speed, distance and more — you can also plug in your phone through an auxiliary music port. The handles include start and stop buttons, along with speed settings you can toggle during your workout. It can support up to 240 pounds and you can fold this treadmill up.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.