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Late in your treadmill workout, when you're drenched in sweat and your legs feel shaky, it can be tempting to grab the machine's handles to support yourself. Doing so, however, will quickly cut into the number of calories you're burning and thus reduce the efficiency of this aerobic exercise. When possible, keep your hands off the handles to maximize your treadmill workout.
Treadmill Calories Burned
The treadmill is an effective exercise machine to help you burn calories at a high rate, and it is suitable for walking and running workouts. The calorie-tracking page on Harvard Medical School's website doesn't differentiate between walking or running on the ground versus on the treadmill. The website notes that a 155-pound person will burn 149 calories during a 30-minute walk at 3.5 mph and 372 calories during a half-hour run at 6 mph.
Whether you hold the treadmill's handles for the duration of your workout or just grab them toward the end when you're fatigued, you're reducing the number of calories you burn. When you use the handles to support even a small percentage of your weight, you're reducing the exertion needed to walk or run. In an article in "Shape" magazine, exercise physiology professor Michele Olson notes that using the handles can reduce the calories you burn by up to 40 percent, although the discrepancy won't likely appear on the machine's calorie counter. For example, if you expect to burn 300 calories during your treadmill workout but lean heavily on the handles, you could burn as few as 180 calories.
Holding the treadmill's handles also negatively affects your walking or running posture, as it causes you to slump forward in an unnatural motion. During each type of exercise, you should keep your back straight, your head square and your shoulders relaxed, notes conditioning coach Mike Antoniades in an article on BBC Sport. Bend your arms at about 90 degrees and pump them from the shoulders in time with your walking or running stride.
Instead of gripping the treadmill's handles to support yourself when you feel tired, you can reduce the intensity of the workout to allow you to continue to keep your hands free. Simple methods of doing so include slowing the speed of the treadmill's belt and lessening the degree of the incline. If you feel you cannot perform the exercise without the use of your hands, consider another type of exercise machine, such as the elliptical trainer, that involves your hands and feet.