Tim Bornholdt

The Tortuous History of the Treadmill

Inventor William Cubitt subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. His “Tread-Wheel,” which was described in the 1822 edition of Rules for the Government of Gaols, Houses of Correction, and Penitentiaries, was presented as a way for prisoners to put in an honest day’s labor. Prisoners used treadmills in groups, with up to two dozen convicts working a single machine, usually grinding grain or pumping water, sometimes for as long as eight hours at a stretch. They’d do so “by means of steps … the gang of prisoners ascend[ing] at one end … their combined weight acting upon every successive stepping board, precisely as a stream upon the float-boards of a water wheel.”

Given a treadmill workout and nothing, I sadly choose nothing all too often.

However, it is fantastic that we have the option, and I’m glad the technology is evolving to make treadmill runs feel more like “real” runs.

I do wish, however, I had one of those treadmill desks. I could see myself easily getting 30,000 steps a day if I had one of those bad boys.