What Does a Treadmill Do for Your Body?

By Frederick S. Blackmon

On a treadmill, your workout routine can vary from light to vigorous with just the press of a button. Treadmills help you add tone to your muscles, lose weight and maintain cardiovascular health. Even medical professionals use treadmills as diagnostic tools to make assessments about your physical fitness level.

Strengthen and Tone Muscles

Running engages several major muscle groups in your lower body. Jogging on the treadmill works the quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh. This band of four independent muscle fibers is responsible for bending and straightening the knee. Treadmill running also exercises the calf muscles along the back of your lower legs. The calves help you walk, run and jump. You can also add variation to your treadmill routine to exercise different muscle groups. You can walk or run with light dumbbells or arm weights to work your biceps and triceps. You can also adjust the intensity level or incline of the treadmill to enlist the aid of your gluteal muscles and hamstrings.

Cardiovascular Fitness and Weight Management

One of the greatest things a treadmill does for your body is produce a continuous cardiovascular response. Treadmills help you reach a threshold of intensity that occurs when your heart rate increases to pump more oxygen and blood to the body. Paired with a healthy diet, this is how you maintain a healthy body weight. By simply walking or running on a treadmill for a prolonged interval of time, your body is able to effectively burn calories. In just half an hour of running, you can burn off nearly 300 calories, depending on your weight. In an exercise study conducted by the Milwaukee VA Hospital and published on Spine-Health.com in 2007, participants burned 25 percent more calories on the treadmill than on bikes or cycles.

Physical Rehabilitation

A treadmill can greatly enhance your ability to recover from sports-related injuries and certain types of health-related problems such as a stroke. Athletes can walk or run on a treadmill to gradually work their way back to the playing field. Treadmills have intensity settings that can help rehab trainers cater the exercise to the athlete's particular injury and level of treatment. You can adjust the speed, incline and intervals of training. Treadmills aren't just for sports rehabilitation, either. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins in 2008 found that treadmills helped stroke victims not only improve their muscular coordination, but also improve their brain function. The key to this remarkable improvement centered around the way treadmill walking stimulated the metabolic activity of the brain stem.

Physiological Assessment

A treadmill helps doctors, trainers and medical professionals find out vital information about what's going on inside your body. It's an effective diagnostic tool. A treadmill is used to conduct an exercise tolerance test, also called the stress test. Under the supervision of your doctor, your body is monitored with EKG leads that test how your body reacts to 10 minutes of walking or running on a treadmill. Doctors use this information to help diagnose heart disease even when you aren't showing any other symptoms. A treadmill also helps personal trainers develop personalized health and fitness goals for you. By having you run or walk on a treadmill, trainers can determine your baseline cardiovascular output and stamina level. Then, you can set obtainable goals that are derived from a combination of factors such as your heart rate, body size and pre-existing medical conditions.

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