At What Age Can Kids Use a Treadmill?


Are children of any age-old enough or responsible enough to use a treadmill?  What about getting hands and fingers pinched in rollers or belts?  What about sliding off the back of the treadmill and bumping heads and limbs?  It’s true that there are inherent dangers in using any exercise equipment, it’s best to use discretion and discernment when deciding on an appropriate age. 

We suggest that children can use treadmills safely if they have a level of understanding of the use of the machine and the dangers.  We also suggest adult supervision!

The Controversy!

Okay, we know there is danger in using any equipment on planet earth – including hairdryers and even mason jars.  In the hands of an immature, angry or otherwise irresponsible children, anything can be dangerous and destructive! 

It also seems that MANY companies and organizations who simply want to cover their own butts from a legal standpoint and avoid lawsuits, will give impossible directives to their customers. 

For example, I own a backyard playhouse for my kids, and the instructions say “NEVER let your children climb UP the slide”.  Does anyone own any children that would actually obey that?  I think it’s a good challenge and something to be proud of if you can make it up the slide! 

In another example of “safe” legislation, the U.S. government enacted a law back around 2009 that made it illegal for wood toy-makers to sell any of their products to the public without a rigorous testing routine that would cost toy-makers thousands of dollars (per toy model – many had over 100 models) to “test” them for safety. 

Small toy-makers had to comply (but could not because of cost) just to prove their beeswax coating on the wood was “safe” for kids.  If you know anything about beeswax, you’ll know it’s not only safe but probably quite beneficial!

And, more to the point, treadmill manufacturers (pretty well across the board) put in ridiculous (but yes, VERY safe) rules that make it practically impossible to adhere to them.  My very own Sole treadmill is an example.  The instruction manual says;

Keep children under the age of 13 away from this machine.  There are obvious pinch points and other caution areas that can cause harm.

Of course this is true, but this just opens Pandora’s box regarding the maturity level of ALL 13-year olds.  What if my neighbor’s 13-year old is a moron and an obnoxious bully who loves being the class clown and always looks for trouble?  Is he allowed on my treadmill?  What about my 11-year old who is going on 35, and she acts like an over-protective mother hen to everyone else in the house? 

Should she be banned?  She’s actually the “safest” one in the house and tells ME how to be safe!  Hmmm… it looks like there’s some grey area here!

My son Noah wears a safety cord which stops the machine immediately if he falls or is pushed off the back of the machine (or in any direction for that matter).

More Naysayers

In my research, I stumbled across quite a number of websites promoting the idea that “children” stay away from treadmills, but many refused to attach any age qualification to their assessment.  The reasons for keeping them away from treadmills ranged from wrapping cords around their necks, shoving their heads under the belt, and jamming their fingers in rollers. 

While these are all obvious dangers, it became fairly evident that most definitions of “children” ended up pertaining to kids under the age of 4 or 5.  If so (and it seems it is), then I agree wholeheartedly!  Children of that age have no sense of environmental hazards and no level of “responsibility” or “maturity” and should absolutely be kept away from ANY piece of exercise equipment. 

I spent nearly 2 hours searching for some serious evidence-based research that could offer some solid answers, and surprisingly, the information was scarce.  The best “anti-treadmill” advice I could find was from a website from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.  An actual scientific study was done between July 2003 and July 2009 to find out more information on children’s’ injuries on treadmills, and here is the conclusion:

Twenty-nine children (15 boys, 14 girls) sustained treadmill-related injuries. The mean age was 3.8 years (range: 1ā€“13 years). All injuries occurred at home and the majority of children trapped their hand under the running belt when an adult was using the machine. Most of the injuries were to the upper limb (97%) with less than 1% of the total body surface area burnt. More than two-thirds of patients had deep burns and 17 (58%) required surgical intervention. Five patients developed hypertrophic scars. All patients achieved a good functional outcome.

Did you read that carefully?  It says the mean age is 3.8 years.  While it’s true that is not exactly an “average”, it still implies the age is quite low, and in looking at the nature of the injuries, I would be inclined to say it includes mostly 2-4 year olds …. which I mentioned earlier have no business around a treadmill.  They are not even aware of their environment, much less what is potentially dangerous around them.

We do NOT recommend “toy” treadmills like this one. The reason is, that while they are pretty “safe”, they are not a product that children will want to use for long. Unlike “real” treadmills, most kid models are self-propelled which is no fun at all and not very effective for fitness either!

Professional/Medical Insight

Finding professional advice on the whole issue of children and treadmills was not that easy, but we found that honesty was harder to squeeze out of people than “being on the safe side”.  Because of our litigious culture where everyone wants to sue and everyone is afraid of being sued, most blogs on the topic just say “kids stay away from treadmills” but don’t give any actual, useable, convincing data or arguments for children over the age of about 7 or 8.

On doctor.nedtv.com we did find a doctor who addressed the issue, and of all the responses, my intuition seemed to mesh with the reasoning of her view on the topic. 

Dr. Neeta Garg is a Neurologist at the University of Miami Health System and she’s also a psychotherapist, counselor, and wellness advocate.  Do those qualifications make her the best person to give advice?  Maybe not, but I’d say she’s near the top of pile of “qualified” spokespeople.

In response to the question “Can a child in the age group 7-10 years use a treadmill for exercise?”, Dr. Garb says the following:

If there is absolutely no other option, then there is no real threat for a child of this age to use a treadmill, provided it is done under supervision, throughout the time the child is on it. However, I have my reservations on the same. It is a time in the life of a child to play outdoors and indulge in activities that he/she enjoys. The treadmill may not reach that standard for a child. Therefore, use your imagination and help build activities for your child. Let them do what they should be doing at this precious time of his life. These times never come back!

From that statement, we can conclude that any reservations she may have pertaining to children and treadmills are not even based at all on safety factors!  That says a lot!

Even Noah (who is a bit of a joker and likes to horse around) still realizes the dangers of a treadmill and governs himself accordingly at age 11.

My Takeaway

Sometimes I find myself acutely aware of the fact that we live in an over-protective culture of fear, and in some cases it makes sense.  However, when it comes to using a treadmill, I think we would do well to use our common sense. 

Though I do not know you personally, I would bet that your own sense of fairness and discernment (or should I say “gut feeling”) would tell you the same.  Children of just about any age (of awareness, which comes AROUND the age of 7-9 years) can use a treadmill, and certainly with engaged adult supervision.  

While it’s true that injuries are possible, I would suggest (given my years of experience with 6 different treadmills) and having children (both boys and girls from birth to adulthood) in my home who want to use the treadmill, the potential negative fallout of refusing the treadmill (like promoting a sedentary lifestyle) and not offering an equally attractive alternative is huge! 

I have an 11-year old who hates running outdoors but begs me to run on the treadmill.  That’s his only exercise, and I’m only too eager to direct him to the machine. 

Dare I say that I don’t supervise him because he has the maturity to go it alone?  That’s a photo of him on our feature image.

I know times have changed, but I happen to believe the pendulum of litigation and fear has swung so far in one direction that we don’t expose our kids to enough “risky” play like riding a bicycle over a 4″ ramp. 

There are laws that prohibit the flying of kites in publically-accessed areas because of the “danger” of killing someone with your kite, and there are numerous stores that won’t sell balloons to kids for “safety reasons”.

Needless to say, I am not in favor of many of the overly-sensitive safety rules that keep our children from learning from experience and garnering at least a small measure of “toughness” (yes, I’m in favor of a couple of wipe-outs on a bike that need a few band-aids because that’s a better lesson than me lecturing them for 30 minutes on the potential dangers of pedaling a bike…. though I lecture them as well!!).

However, we affirm all reasonable measures of caution around any fitness equipment and above all – USE YOUR DISCERNMENT!  (I know you would anyway!).     


References:

Doctor.ndtv.com – Can a child in the age group 7-10 years use a treadmill for exercise?

NCBI – Paediatric injuries due to home treadmill use


 

 

Pete

My name's Pete Stec and I'm one of the owners here at SportConsumer.com and Sport Consumer Family (YouTube). My family and I invite you to travel our journey of wellness for your kids and family through nutrition and exercise while we continue to provide the very best reviews on the sports gear you need for serious competition or for your leisure activity!

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