Like me, you’ve probably witnessed plenty of treadmill users crank up the speed to just shy of sprinting, the incline to just shy of vertical…and then grab on for dear life! Nothing like taking a perfectly good exercise and making it less beneficial… Hanging on to the treadmill railings is self-defeating in several regards:
1) It throws off the normal mechanics of walking.
Walking is not designed to be just a lower body phenomenon. Upper body motion, particularly arm swing, is an integral part of normal walking. By affixing your arms to the rail, you lock down your upper body, forcing unnatural mechanics.
2) It bypasses your standard stabilizing mechanisms, including your core.
In real life, your core stabilizes you (see previous post here), and your nervous system maintains your balance by constantly re-adjusting your muscles for each little position change. Both of these mechanisms actually improve with training. But with your body anchored to the machine via your arms, there’s little need for additional stabilization from your core, and less dynamic positions for your nervous system to react to. Not only are your arms taking care of the stabilizing, but they’re also then not swinging –i.e. not challenging your body’s balance . This would all be well and good if not for the fact that at some point you have to get off the treadmill and go back to functioning in the real world–where you depend on these stabilizing mechanisms.
3) It can raise your blood pressure.
Depending on how forcefully you do it, gripping raises the resistance in the blood vessels, thereby increasing the pressure against which your heart has to pump.
4) It lessens your workout.
Your body’s not dumb. There’s a reason it wants to hold on…….it’s easier! Easier=less work=less workout. Either slow down or lower the incline if you need to, but let go!
TIP: When using the treadmill (or similar machines), hold on with your hands as little as necessary to steady yourself and feel safe. If you need to hold on, use the side rails (not the front rail) in order to maintain your upright posture and avoid leaning forward. And if able, let go altogether for a better and more functional workout.