ASTM F2115-19: Motorized Treadmills

Rear view of people doing cardio on treadmills in a gym that adhere to ASTM F2115-19.

In the 1st century AD, the Romans used a precursor to the treadmill, known as the treadwheel. This human-powered device was essentially a large wheel attached to a crane. Used in place of a traditional winch, men would walk continuously within a large hamster-like wheel to lift heavy objects for construction. Rather than being used for construction, today’s treadmills are popular cardiovascular machines used for aerobic exercise. ASTM F2115-19: Standard Specification For Motorized Treadmills establishes specifications for the proper design and manufacturing of motorized treadmills.

What Is ASTM F2115?

ASTM F2115-19 establishes parameters for the design and manufacture of motorized treadmills. This standard assists designers and manufacturers in reducing the possibility of injury when motorized treadmills products are used in accordance with the operational instructions.

History of the Treadmill

Despite that the treadmill underwent various iterations, it continuously maintained a strong connection to be utilized for manual labor.

Horse Treadmills

In the 19th century, horses were placed on treadmills to operate stationary machines. These horse treadmills were used when renewable power sources like wind and water were not accessible. Horse treadmills were even sometimes used to power boats—especially on the east coast of the United States. This iteration of the treadmill featured a horizontal belt that more closely resembles modern models.

Prison Treadmills

The next big iteration in treadmill design came in 1817. William Cubitt, a civil engineer raised in a family of millwrights, created a treadwheel— resembling a modern day stair climber. It was installed at Brixton Prison in London. Prisoners pressed down with their feet on steps embedded in the wheel, which moved it, presenting them with the next step. Typically, prisoners would walk for about six hours daily, climbing up to 14,000 vertical feet and easily burning more than 2,000 calories. Eventually, Sir William went on to design a version of the penal tread-mill that could be used for pumping water and grinding corn; although, it still remained an arduous, physically punishing task for prisoners. The treadmill was eventually abolished in 1902.

Early 20th Century Treadmills

In 1911, Claude Lauraine Hagen filed a patent in the US for a “training-machine,” which featured a treadmill belt. In 1913, the patent was granted. Hagen envisioned his machine to be able to fold up and be used at different heights. Hagen made efforts to reduce the noise that the machine would make: his design had four outer posts attached to raise the belt off the ground, which also enabled the incline to be adjusted.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, manually operated treadmills were invented; however, they lacked a motor and required the user to manually move the wooden slats to create momentum.

Treadmill for Cardiology

In 1952, the first motorized treadmill was invented by cardiologist Dr. Robert A. Bruce. It was used to diagnose heart and lung conditions as well as diseases. Dr Bruce achieved this with a cardiac stress test, now known as the Bruce Protocol. Patients were hooked up to an electrocardiograph machine (ECG); they would walk/run and every few minutes the speed and incline would increase. As a result, Dr Bruce could see if and where heart and lung defects occurred.

Mass-Produced Treadmills

Mechanical engineer, William Staub introduced the world’s first, mass-produced, home treadmill in the late 1960s. Staub’s inspiration for the invention came from “Aerobics,” a book published in 1968 by Dr Kenneth Cooper, a former Air Force Colonel. The book maintained that a better life was rooted in better cardiovascular health. Staub built a prototype treadmill, the PaceMaster 600, and sent it to Dr Cooper for approval. Dr Cooper saw the immense possibility of a treadmill in the home and as such pledged to fund the machine through his company Aerobics Inc. By the 1980s, Aerobics Inc was selling 2,000 treadmills a year; by the mid-90s, sales had reached a momentous 35,000 units a year.

In 1991, Life Fitness produced their first treadmill: the 9500HR. This treadmill featured a patented shock absorption system. Despite taking a week to assemble, the 9500HR propelled Life Fitness into a whole new market.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Treadmill?

Since walking is well tolerated by most individuals regardless of fitness level and for most back conditions, treadmills are a phenomenal choice to begin a new exercise routine. Here are some other advantages and benefits associated with using a treadmill:

  1. The treadmill is versatile, offering a variety of intensities from lower stress walking, endurance building jogging, or high intensity sprinting
  2. The treadmill has a predictable surface (and some offer extra cushioning) that is much easier to negotiate than sidewalks, curbs or trails and the risk of tripping or hurting your joints is reduced
  3. All aspects of the workout can be controlled by the user: speed, incline, warm up period, cool down period, and energy spend
  4. The treadmill is effective at raising the heartrate to a healthy level
  5. Some treadmills have special features such as step counters and heart rate monitors so fitness progress can be tracked
  6. Running on a treadmill generally burns calories faster than most other forms of in-home exercise, such as biking
  7. Treadmills are relatively easy to use if you are capable of walking

ASTM F2115-19: Standard Specification For Motorized Treadmills is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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