Kids and Treadmill Safety

Little girl walking on a home treadmill

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The 2021 recall of the Peloton Tread and Tread+ was just one example of the risks treadmills may cause. If you have a treadmill in your home, be aware of the dangers treadmills may pose for kids, and the safety precautions you can take to protect them. There are also some kids' treadmills designed with child safety in mind.

Treadmill Dangers

Studies show that almost all of the injuries that occur as a result of home treadmill use are to those under 16 years of age. The moving belt of a treadmill can entrap small fingers, hair, and clothing if children wander near it. And since the belt continues to move until the user hits the stop button or the safety clip disengages, this can lead to friction burns.

Friction burns caused by treadmills account for roughly 3.5% of all pediatric burns. In some cases, these burns can be severe enough to require skin grafts or plastic surgery.

A six-year study at two burn units revealed that 97% of children's treadmill injuries are to the upper limbs of the body. More than two-thirds of accidents result in deep burns and 58% require surgical treatment.

In the case of the Peloton Tread and Tread+ recall, these treadmills were considered more dangerous to children because they sit higher off the ground and the belt was slatted versus being a continuous surface. Both increased the risk that a child could get pulled underneath while the treadmill is running.

Treadmill Safety Rules

Following a few basic guidelines can help reduce treadmill dangers for kids. If you have a treadmill in your home, be sure everyone follows these rules.

Make the Treadmill Inoperable When Not in Use

Children are tempted to imitate their parents and run on the treadmill. But until they are tall enough and mature enough to operate the controls safely, the treadmill should be locked away from their use.

Unplug or lock the treadmill so young children can't turn it on. If a safety key or cord is required for the treadmill to start, store it away from the treadmill in a place children can't reach.

Make the Treadmill Safer to Use

Allow plenty of clearance space behind the treadmill in case the user falls off the back. Place rubber matting or a thin, durable piece of carpet under, around, and behind the treadmill to help cushion any falls.

Cords can present a strangling or entrapment hazard. Keep them out of the way when the treadmill is not in use by unplugging the machine and bundling the cords. When the treadmill is in use, make sure the cords are out of the way.

Keep folding treadmills safe when not in use by folding them up and securing them in place. A folded treadmill may be a tip-over hazard, much like a tall bookcase, and needs to be secured.

Teach Older Children How to Use a Treadmill Safely

Once a child is mature enough to use a treadmill safely, give them a thorough walk-through of all of its operating commands and safety features. Show them how to turn it off quickly should a problem arise.

Your treadmill's user manual will typically provide guidelines on how old a child should be to use that particular piece of equipment. Oftentimes, the age is somewhere around 12 or 13 and up.

Supervise Kids During Treadmill Use

Children who use a treadmill—with or without supervision—may stumble, fall, and get propelled off the back or side of the treadmill. This can result in broken bones, head injuries, and other trauma. If you are right there, you can instantly respond.

If the injury is minor, first aid treatment may be enough. If the child has friction burns, a head injury, a broken bone, is unable to move their limb, or another serious injury, seek medical attention immediately.

Treadmills Designed for Kids

If you want your child to exercise at home, there are manual, non-motorized treadmills designed specifically for children. These adhere to child safety standards and don't present the same risks as adult motorized treadmills.

For example, Redmon's Fun & Fitness Kids Treadmill is a manual treadmill with no motorized belt. The child propels it by walking on it. It has a no-tip design and is appropriate for children aged 3 to 7.

Even with a manual treadmill, it is important to keep other children away from the belt while it is in motion. While the kids' treadmill design should reduce those risks, it is best to be safe.

Keep in mind that experts recommend more play-focused physical activities for children and adolescents (such as riding a bike, playing tag, dancing, and playing sports). Encourage these options when possible, especially for children too young to use a home treadmill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can children use treadmills?

Yes, they can. Treadmills are a more appropriate for older children and teens. However, there are a few kids' treadmills that are non-motorized, thus safer for younger kids. If a child does use a treadmill, it's important to teach them how to use it safely.

How do kids' treadmills work?

Most kids' treadmills are non-motorized, so the belt only moves when kids propel it with their feet. This reduces the risk of falling off of a moving treadmill belt, which can cause friction burns or trap a child with its moving parts.

How old should a kid be to use a treadmill?

Manufacturers set their own guidelines, so read your treadmill's user manual to learn the age ranges it recommends. Generally, a child should be at least 12 or 13 years of age to use this piece of equipment, but check your manual to know for sure.

A Word From Verywell

It's excellent to set a good example for your kids by exercising at home, including using a treadmill. Children need more steps per day than adults and you want to encourage active play. While a treadmill can be one solution, put safety first by following these basic guidelines.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.