Artículo del Mes: Cuidado con la máquina más peligrosa del gimnasio


lunes, 7 octubre, 2016        Ver documento adjunto.

Todavía se siguen escuchando un montón de advertencias y riesgos sobre el hecho de “hacer pesas” o “entrenar demasiado la fuerza”, esgrimiendo que pueden resultar muy lesivas, poco conveniente para el mantenimiento de la salud, o que pueden causarte graves lesiones.


Lógicamente, com cualquier herramienta de entrenamiento, los hierros no dejan de tener un riesgo inherente, que suele estar en la mayor parte de los casos relacionados con la mala técnica del ejecutante, una progresión demasiado rápida, o descuidos sobre su uso (que se caiga alguna mancuerna, barras sin topes para los discos, tropezones, etc.)


Sin embargo, poco se escucha sobre la que hasta ahora es, con diferencia, la máquina del gimnasio a la que se asocian mayor número de incidentes (posiblemente, porque también es la más abundante y de las que más se utilizan): las cintas de correr.


Ponemos a disposición de toda la comunidad de “element@s” un interesante artículo, donde se ofrecen cifras y casos reales donde la cinta es la principal protagonista.


Con la cinta sucede como con muchas prácticas habituales, y es que por común el entrenador deja de prestarle la debida atención a dar las correctas instrucciones, fijarse en cómo la utilizan los clientes, y asegurarse en todo momento de que no se queda encendida, el tapiz no se bloquea con gente pesada, etc.


Ya sabes… La próxima vez que vayas al gym, ten en cuenta estas consideraciones con tus clientes, entrenadores y staff.




Ready, Steady, Go?

by Betul Sekendiz, M.Sc., Ph.D.

  1. To understand and identify the sources of hazards and associ- ated risks with treadmills in health/ fitness facilities.
  2. To be able to develop and im- plement risk management strate- gies to control and minimize risks pertaining to the provision and use of treadmills in health/fitness facilities.

Key words: Health/Fitness Industry, Safety, Injuries, Risk Management, Legal Liability, Treadmills


hysical inactivity is associated with most chronic diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and certain cancers including colon and breast cancer), decreased total and quality years of life, and premature death (3). It mostly affects the developed and developing countries because of busier and less activity-friendly built environments (5). Government policies have

been developed that promote moderate-to-vigorous cardiorespiratory training on most days of the week with a combination of muscle-strengthening activities necessary to im- prove and maintain physical fitness and health (17). As a means toward this end, treadmills have become one of the most popular types of motorized fitness equipment in health/ fitness facilities that allow people to fit personalized exercise into their busy schedules. Notwithstanding its common use and associated health benefits, the risk of injuries and adverse outcomes caused by treadmill use and pertinent legal liability claims are not unlikely. Although similar risks are associated with other pieces of fitness equipment as well, the focus of this article will be on motorized treadmills (1).

10         ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  July/August 2016

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According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commis- sion’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, between 2012 and 2014 there were approximately 72,900 inju- ries (24,300 injuries per year) associated with treadmills, which was the highest number in the exercise equipment category (16). According to available fatality reporting during the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012, there were 30 reported deaths associated with treadmills, or an average of approximately three per year. According to recent research in Australia that analyzed the Victorian Emergency Minimum Dataset (VEMD), which includes 39 Victorian hospitals with a 24-hour emergency service, between July 1999 and June 2013, treadmill injuries (n = 167, 9%) were among the most common injuries in fitness facilities and the most common of all involving motorized car- diovascular equipment (6). The most common cause associated with treadmill injuries in fitness facilities was trip and fall (n = 118, 70.7%) followed by overexertion and strenuous or unnatural movement (n = 17, 10.2%). Awkward landing or twisting during exercise (n = 13, 7.8%) and hit/contact with equipment or wall (n = 2, 1.2%) also were reported as causes associated with treadmill injuries. Knowing the types and causes of injuries undoubtedly is very important in developing injury-prevention strategies in exer- cise environments (7). However, the analysis of the hospital emer- gency department injury surveillance systems such as the VEMD is limited to the information the case narratives provide and there- fore cannot adequately identify the sources of hazards associated with the risk of injury. For example, although trip and fall has been identified as a major cause for treadmill injuries, it does not answer why and how the trip and fall occurred so that it can effectively be controlled and prevented from happening again.


Health/fitness facility operators have a duty of care to their users, visitors, customers, and employees to protect their health and safety. If a facility operator’s failure or omission to meet cer- tain standards of practice causes harm to people, he or she can face the risk of legal liability. Therefore, having a comprehensive risk management plan is crucial to provide and maintain an injury-free, safe, and healthy environment in health/fitness facil- ities (13). According to the international standard on risk man- agement, ISO 31000:2009, Risk Management—Principles and Guidelines, the risk management process involves (a) establishing the con- text (setting organizational objectives, identifying relevant laws, regulations, industry standards and practices), (b) identifying hazards and associated risks, (c) analyzing risks (the likeli- hood and consequences of risks), (d) evaluating risks (prioritizing risks according to the level of risk on a risk matrix), and (e) con- trolling risks (developing and implementing the most effective hazard control measures to minimize or eliminate risks that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances) (9). Continuous communication, monitoring, and reviewing are essential through- out the risk management process to ensure that the control measures are being implemented effectively, and modifica- tions are made if necessary.

Identification of hazards and associated risks is the most im- portant element for a risk management program to be success- ful. A hazard left unidentified would result in associated risks being excluded from the whole risk management process. Hence, most often, hazards and risks are incorrectly used interchangeably. The international standard on risk management, ISO 31000:2009, defines hazard as a source of potential harm and risk as the possibility that harm (death, injury, illness) might occur when exposed to the hazard (9). Identifying hazards and setting achievable and realistic hazard control measures (measured against a cost-benefit analysis) can enable an organization to minimize risks and make the success of organizational objectives possible.

Although hazard identification is the first step in assessing and managing risks, it should not be treated as a one-off activity. For example, in addition to routine inspections of the facility to con- tinuously identify and report hazards, health/fitness facility op- erators should keep abreast of potential hazards by following product recalls announced by equipment manufacturers and government agencies such as the CPSC. In the event of injuries caused by product defects, the manufacturer likely would be held liable for injures (i.e., product liability/strict liability); how- ever, health/fitness facility operators failing to adhere to the re- calls also could be held liable for negligence. According to the CPSC, there have been 11 product recalls by high-profile inter- national treadmill manufacturers between 1998 and 2008, af- fecting more than 168,000 units of equipment (16). The major type of risk involving these recalls was unexpected acceleration/ deceleration of speed (n = 7, 64%) causing users to lose balance and fall off. The most common sources of hazards for this type of injury risk were overheating of the electric circuitry of the treadmills (n = 3, 27.3%), malfunctioning of the electric control unit (n = 2, 22%), or a programming defect (n = 2, 22%) (Table). There was one recall case involving the extreme risk of deadly

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TABLE: Sources of Hazards and Type of Risks Involving CPSC Treadmill Recall Cases Between 1998 and 2008





Electric shock

Unexpected acceleration/ deceleration of speed

Unexpected elevation

Damaged and exposed parts


Property damage/burn/ injuries/smoke damage to the area

Electrocution/ death

Lose balance/fall/injury

Lose balance/ fall/injury

Bystanders can get hit/injury

Electrical short in the motor




Overheating of circuitry




Malfunctioning of the electric control unit



Programming defect




Improper assembly/ instructions



Dust accumulating inside treadmill hood













One type of hazard can be associated with more than one type of risk.

electrocution (9.1%) that affected more than 71,000 treadmills manufactured by eight companies.


Case law is one of the primary sources of information that can help to identify sources of hazards and injury risks in exercise set- tings resulting in a serious risk of litigation (4,14). The following are recent exemplary cases that depict some of the most com- mon sources of hazards resulting in serious treadmill injuries in health/fitness facilities.

  1. Treadmill not turned off after use: In Palmer v. Lakeside Wellness Center (11), in the Supreme Court of Nebraska, the plaintiff, unaware that the treadmill was left run- ning by the last user, stepped onto the treadmill from the back and was thrown off the belt into an elliptical training machine located behind her. Palmer asserted that the location of the treadmill was poorly lit, and the facility was so loud that she was unable to hear whether the machine was operating.
  2. Non-secure exercise ball in the location: In Roer v. 150 W. End Ave. Owners Corp. (12), in the Supreme Court of New York, the gym operator’s failure to secure a gym ball resulted in the severe injuries of the plaintiff, who fell off a treadmill and lost her balance as a result of

a rolling gym ball hitting and getting stuck under the running tread of the treadmill.

  1. Malfunctioning of the control unit sudden increase of incline function: In Geczi v. Lifetime Fitness (6), in the New York Court of Appeals, as the plaintiff started to increase the speed of the treadmill while running, the incline function engaged on its own, and the ma- chine began jerking violently. In an attempt to steady herself, she grabbed the side railing of the treadmill with both hands. At that point, she suffered a severe pull on her left arm resulting in dislocation of her shoulder. When she reported the incident to an employee, she was told that the club was aware of the malfunctioning treadmill. However, they did not take any preventive measures that could have avoided its use or warned the user of the defective nature of the treadmill before her injury.
  2. Malfunctioning of the control unit defective motion sensor: In Malouf v. Equinox Holdings (10), in the Supreme Court of New York, the plaintiff suffered serious inju- ries, scraping her knee and dislocating her shoulder as she fell off a treadmill that was already running when she embarked. The plaintiff asserted that she did not realize that the belt of the treadmill was already run- ning because of the location of the treadmill in the

12         ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  July/August 2016

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back row of the cardio equipment area with poor light- ing or shadows. Expert testimony implied that a defec- tive motor control unit of the treadmill caused the motion sensor not to operate to stop the moving belt of the treadmill when no one was using it. However, the facility had no logs or written policies or procedures regarding preventive maintenance for treadmills.

  1. Malfunctioning of the control unit sudden increase of speed: In Hague v. Summit Acres Skilled Nursing & Rehab (8), in the Ohio Court of Appeals, the plaintiff had been walking on the treadmill for approximately a minute when the machine unexpectedly jerked and started increasing in speed. She tried to stop the treadmill by hitting the stop button several times, but it did not stop. When she called for help, no one responded. She lost her footing on the treadmill, and the treadmill pulled her legs back, but she held on to the front bar of the treadmill for approximately three minutes. Even- tually, she released the front bar and fell off the tread- mill resulting in the breaking of her shoulders.
  2. Failure to provide proper instruction and supervision: In the aforementioned case of Hague v. Summit Acres Skilled Nursing & Rehab (8), the plaintiff claimed that the defendants were negligent in failing to provide any instruction or supervision on the operation of the tread- mill on her first day at the facility. Hague contended that she could not ask for any assistance when she entered the facility because there was no one there to ask. Further- more, she had to rely on the instructions on the operation of the treadmill that she received from a fellow member.


Health/fitness facilities commonly house treadmills that provide an excellent opportunity to meet people’s need to exercise and achieve health and fitness goals. However, a risk of injuries can result from the use of treadmills that can be caused by var- ious sources of hazards. The analysis of product recalls and case law presented in this article shows that major sources of haz- ards cause fall-related treadmill injuries and are caused by

equipment malfunction and defects, improper or lack of pre- ventive maintenance programs, poor location of the treadmills, and a lack of instruction and supervision. Although constant supervision of all exercise areas in health/fitness facilities is crucial, it also is recommended strongly to have proper signage that includes operating instructions and risk warnings next to exercise equipment. In Hague v. Summit (8), the instructions and the risk warnings about treadmill usage clearly posted next to the machine was an effective defense against the negligence claim that the plaintiff was injured as a result of the fitness instructor’s failure to provide adequate supervision and instruction on the treadmill usage.

Often, when treadmill users fall, they may be caught in the motion of the belt and thrown backward. On landing, their head may slam against the treadmill, surrounding structures, other equipment, or even on the ground. This type of fall is especially dangerous if the treadmill is placed near a wall because severe head trauma, fracture, open wounds/bleeding, and even death can occur as a result. Industry standard-setting organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) re- quire a minimum space of 2 meters behind and 0.5 meters on each side of the treadmill (2). Some leading treadmill manufac- turers require up to 2 meters of space behind and 0.5–0.6 meters on each side (15). These space allocations are not mandatory; however, they can be used as the standard of duty of care in a negligence case where the plaintiff experienced harm as a result of falling off a treadmill and hitting against nearby equipment, mirror, window, or wall (4). However, providing that effective risk management strategies are implemented, health/fitness fa- cility operators can control the hazards and minimize the fore- seeable risk of injuries and adverse health outcomes as far as is reasonably practicable.


  • Treadmills should be located in health/fitness facilities according to the requirements of the manufacturer guide- lines. If the manufacturer does not provide specific mea- surements or contradicts the ASTM standard, the greater recommended distance behind a treadmill should be fol- lowed to secure the safest free exit from a treadmill.
  • The area surrounding the treadmills should be clear of any other equipment within the required space allocations. Loose equipment, such as exercise balls, should be securely stored away from the treadmills.
  • Health/fitness facilities should have a preventive mainte- nance program for the treadmills and have them regularly maintained, cleaned, and serviced only by qualified per- sonnel and technicians.
  • Treadmills in health/fitness facilities should be regularly inspected for any sources of hazards, including malfunc- tioning, wear and tear, and cleanliness. A logging system should be used that shows when the inspections were

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conducted and any identified issues and preventive mea- sures put in place.

  • Proper instruction on the use of treadmills should be a part of an orientation program for all new members.
  • Health/fitness facility operators should hire or contract only with fitness professionals holding nationally accredited qualifications.
  • Health/fitness facility operators should ensure that fitness professionals conducting the instruction on how to use treadmills properly have received specialized training and are well versed in this area.
  • Signage including general guidelines and illustrations demonstrating how to use treadmills should be displayed in an area accessible and visible to all members in the car- diovascular training zone.
  • Users should be instructed to bring a treadmill to a com- plete stop and turn it off before disembarking. This rule should be reinforced through signage and constant super- vision in the facility.
  1. Abbott A. Injury litigations. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013;17(3):28–32.
  2. ASTM F2115-12. Standard specifications for motorized treadmills. American Society for Testing and Materials Web site [Internet]. West Conshohocken (PA): American Society for Testing and Materials; [cited 2016 January 25]. Available from:
  3. Booth FW, Roberts CK, Laye MJ. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Compr Physiol. 2012;2(2):1143–211.
  4. Eickhoff-Shemek JM. Treadmill injuries: an analysis of case law. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2010;14(1):39–41.
  5. Feng J, Glass TA, Curriero FC, Stewart WF, Schwartz BS. The built environment and obesity: a systematic review of the epidemiologic evidence. Health Place. 2010; 16(2):175–90.
  6. Geczi v. Lifetime Fitness, Ohio App 973, NE2d 801 (2012).
  7. Gray S, Finch C. The causes of injuries sustained at fitness facilities presenting to Victorian emergency departments—identifying the main culprits. Inj Epidemiol.


  1. Hague v. Summit Acres Skilled Nursing & Rehab, Ohio App, LEXIS 5400 (2010).
  2. ISO 31000:2009, Risk management—principles and guidelines. International Organization for Standardization Web site [Internet]. Geneva, Switzerland.

International Organization for Standardization; [cited 2016 January 25]. Available from

  1. Malouf v. Equinox Holdings, Inc, NY App Div, LEXIS 163 (2014).
  2. Palmer v. Lakeside Wellness Center, 281 Neb 780, 798 NW2d 845, Neb LEXIS 62 (2011).
  3. Roer v. 150 West End Avenue Owners Corp, NY Misc, LEXIS 6353 (2010).
  4. Sekendiz B. Implementation and perception of risk management practices in health/fitness facilities. International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management.  2014;5(3):165–83.
  5. Sekendiz B. Personal fitness trainers giving tough love: risks and consequences.

ACSMs Health Fit J. 2014;18(3):8–11.

  1. Sekendiz B, Gray SE, Norton K, et al. Safety alert for treadmills in health/fitness facilities in Australia: results from a pilot study of an observational audit tool.


  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site [Internet]. Bethesda (MD):

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; [cited 2015 December 24]. Available from:

17. Healthy people 2020. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Web site [Internet]. Washington (D.C.): U.S. Department of Health & Human Services;

[cited 2015 December 24]. Available from: 2020/about/default.aspx.

Disclosure: The author declares no conflict of interest and does not have any financial disclosures.

Betul Sekendiz, M.Sc., Ph.D., is a lecturer in exercise and sport management at Central Queensland University in Australia, where her research focuses on risk management in the health and fitness industry.

Treadmills in health/fitness facilities help keep people

physically active, fit, and healthy. However, a serious risk of injuries resulting from falling off treadmills can occur

that can be caused by various sources of hazards.

Health/fitness facility operators can satisfy their duty to protect the health and safety of their members by

implementing effective risk management strategies to control and monitor the hazards and minimize the

associated risk of injuries and subsequent legal liability.

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