Treadmills are the cardio machine of choice in America, making them the single most popular piece of exercise machinery purchased nationwide.
Given that, injuries are rare although still troubling. There were 24,400 treadmill-related injuries treated in ERs in 2014, and on average about three people a year die because of treadmill accidents, according to national statistics. David Goldberg, 47, a longtime California technology industry leader and husband of Facebook executive and author Sheryl Sandberg, died recently from head trauma and blood loss after apparently slipping off a treadmill while working out during a vacation in Mexico.
Still, the health benefits of a treadmill workout far outweigh the potential dangers, said John Platero, chief executive for the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers. He said that most accidents occur because people are looking for ways to distract themselves, such as reading a magazine, watching TV or texting.
He noted the viral video of a young man who recently appeared on "Ellen" and wowed the audience with his ability to dance, jump, flip and spin while on a treadmill. (Google it.)
Platero, however, says you should only do one thing on the treadmill: your workout.
"Use common sense," he said, "don't try to break dance, jump rope or hula hoop on a treadmill or any of that other stuff."
Common sense, however, is not always common. And we can all use a refresher course. So here are some additional tips for staying safe while logging miles.
Start with a straddle. Most treadmills start moving at a slow pace. But on rare occasions, a treadmill belt can malfunction and jerk to life at an unexpectedly fast clip, warns TreadmillReviews.net. That site suggests beginning by straddling the deck (so that feet are clear of the belt), starting the machine at a slow pace, then stepping on when it's safe to do so.
Make sure you know when the treadmill is on. Sounds obvious, right? But if the TV is blaring or the light is dim, it might be hard to hear or see that the treadmill is running. Some suggest painting a few bright yellow lines across the treadmill belt for an instant visual alert.
Don't jump on, or off, a running treadmill. You don't really need this one explained, do you?
Wear appropriate footwear and clothing. Yes, it's true, barefoot running is a thing. But you're courting a potentially nasty burn or injury if you suddenly come to a stop while the treadmill belt keeps going. Also, avoid loose, billowy clothing that could get caught in the belt.
Don't overexert yourself. Sure, you want to push, but don't go so hard that you get dizzy or trip and fall. Hint: If you are hanging on to the handrails, you're pushing beyond your limits.
When planning your home workout area:
Consider who will have access. Treadmills should not be located where children can hop onboard and start pushing buttons.
Leave plenty of open space around a home treadmill. A sliding glass door or the pointy edge of a coffee table could be hazardous if you were to fall. Also, keep bags and towels clear of the treadmill to avoid a trip or rolled ankle.
Make sure a phone is handy. One idea: Place it on the floor near the front of the treadmill. That way you won't be tempted by it and you won't trip over it, but it's close if needed.
Do you work out alone? It's not a bad idea to let someone know when they can expect you back. We know it might seem overly cautious. But it's a little like leaving a destination note on your dashboard when you go out hiking alone in the wilderness. You'll be glad you did if something goes wrong.
Additional sources used for this article: National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, and the Sports and Fitness Industry Assn.