History Of The Treadmill

According to Wikipedia, treadmills were invented way back in 1818 by an English engineer named Sir William Cubitt. Noting idle prisoners at a jail, he invented a mechanism to utilise the prisoners muscle power to both cure their idleness and to produce useful work. Cubitt’s treadmills usually rotated around a horizontal axis, requiring the user to step upwards, like walking up an endless staircase. They were so successful that by 1842, the majority of British prisons had them installed. Think of that next time you are using a treadmill – they were actually invented to keep prisoners active!

Treadmills development continued – but not for physical exercise. The early treadmills were tied to water pumps, butter churns, and adapted to grind grain and so on.

As the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, treadmills started appearing in factories. In the 1920s car manufacturers regularly used treadmills to move parts and machinery from one end of the factory to another. This led to reduced labor costs and it was one of the reasons that automobiles became an affordable item for the masses.

Wooden Treadmills

Wooden Treadmills

In the 1930s these early treadmills were adapted for primitive fitness exercise – and featured wooden rollers.

They had wooden slats that rotated around two rolling drums. They would require a fair amount of physical effort to rotate and, as you can imagine the machines were very noisy.

Because this was well before the invention of today’s climate controlled clothing, people tended to work out in cotton outfits and their regular hard soled shoes.

In 1952, Dr. Robert Bruce came up with the idea of using a rubber treadmill belt for human exercise and fitness. It became clear that the machines could provide cardiovascular and weight control benefits, and developments continued apace.

Notice The High Heels!

Notice The High Heels!


During the 1950s and 1960s the treadmill continued to evolve. It evolved to include a more comfortable hand rest and a fabric, rather than wooden, walking belt. In this picture, the model using the treadmill is wearing high heels.

The Finnish company Tunturi was among the first to manufacture their own design of treadmill. Originally a bicycle manufacturer, they had become a premier exercise equipment maker by the 1960s.

Treadmills became more common place and with the opening of more and more gyms and fitness centres during the 1980s and 1990s, the treadmill became an essential piece of easy to use fitness equipment.

NASA soon took note of the new and improving treadmill technology, realizing how useful it could be in the space program. By 2000, NASA had placed a treadmill in orbit. Astronauts using the International Space Station could now keep physically fit even in zero gravity.


Astronaut Working Out

The past fifty years have shown a continual improvement in equipment. The basic treadmill concept has remained, however a plethora of features are now available. Music players, internet connections, speed and incline adjustments and heart monitors are now commonplace. As electronics and mechanics improve and more companies got into the market, very high quality treadmills can now be obtained at affordable prices. Owning your own treadmill and avoiding the trudge to and from the gym has become ever more popular. People are now able to enjoy the health benefits without leaving the comforts and privacy of home. More people than ever can now use treadmills as an excellent way to receive a low impact workout with all the health benefits.


The Treadmill Of The Future?