7 Common Treadmill Mistakes Even Experienced Exercisers Make

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As winter rolls in, what's right for your daily walk or run may mean getting indoors. If you're used to exercising outdoors, or if you haven't logged some significant machine miles in a while, you'll want to check the safety rules—especially treadmills.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 24,000 people visit emergency rooms each year for treadmill-related injuries. While deaths are rare, head and shoulder injuries, sprains and burns are very common, said Dr. Laura Mile Pascoe, a fitness and exercise specialist who specializes in injury prevention. "It's the first time of the year when people go to the gym," Miley-Pascoe said. "They'll visit and want to use the treadmill, and the gym staff think they know how to do it right, but many don't."

Are you in danger? Follow these seven rules to exercise your intelligence.

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Mistake 1: Forgetting to use the security key

All treadmills are equipped with seat belts or keys, and with one pull, the treadmill stops automatically. It is designed to always hang on one of your garments. Even the most experienced runners can take the wrong step and fall off the treadmill, says Lisa Reed, a certified trainer in Washington, D.C. First tip: Always wear the security key.

Mistake #2: Improper installation and removal

It's tempting to get on the treadmill and hit "start." But if the treadmill breaks—for example, starting from a bump, or suddenly increasing the speed of an Olympic marathoner—you might be caught off guard. Instead, place one foot on either side of the seat belt, then hold the armrest with one hand and press the Start button with the other. Once the treadmill starts to move, walk slowly. Then, keep walking while gradually increasing the speed to your desired speed.

When done, click the "Stop" button. "People often want to get off the treadmill while it's still in motion, but your body is used to the drive," says Miele-Pascoe. Don't get in the way of your workout. Once it stops, grab the armrest and straddle the belt, turn around, and get down.

Mistake 3: Moving your head

Your body naturally follows your head, so if you turn your head to one side, you could get knocked over, Reid said. When running, keep your neutral alignment. If you need to look beyond the front, for example, at a console or at your feet, move your eyes instead of your head. "If you need to look around, use your peripheral vision," she added.

Mistake 4: Answering calls and texts

Just like distracted driving, distracted running can spell disaster for the treadmill. If you have to carry your phone with you, turn off the alarm, or if you're waiting for an important call, be sure to press the "Pause" or "Stop" button on the machine to bring the carousel to a complete stop before answering. Never leave a running treadmill, Miele-Pascoe says, because the next person on the treadmill may not realize the belt is moving.

Mistake 5: Not Paying Attention to Your Clothes

Put away your towel, or hang it on the console so it doesn't fall on your belt, Reid says. Likewise, if you're going to delaminate, make sure to throw them off your belt. Miele-Pascoe tells the story of a high school student who tucks his shirt into his shorts while running on a treadmill. "The shirt came loose from his shorts and got caught in the belt - so did he," she said. "If he hadn't taken off his shorts, he would have been badly burned."

Mistake #6: Getting too close to the console

Keep a safe distance when talking about the console. "Put some distance between your body and the console, up to your entire forearm," says Andia Winslow, a registered trainer and running coach in New York. "That way you don't accidentally pull the safety rope or hit your hand or fist on the machine."

Mistake 7: Too hard, too fast

"When it comes to getting back in shape, many people think they need to go all out," Miele-Pascoe said. "But you need to get your body used to exercising again, especially if you're not exercising regularly." Instead of starting at a blistering pace, do light cardio. If you feel dizzy or short of breath on the treadmill, stop immediately, she says.