There is a continuous ‘dhap dhap’ sound under the feet, breathing is quickening, sweat is rolling down the neck and throat. Running continuously in the same place on a treadmill. And the treadmill belt moves in sync with your feet. Boredom started to appear. It felt like running for an hour, but it was actually ten minutes. But now I need some rest. Have you ever wondered why you are torturing yourself like this while wiping the sweat rolling down your cheeks with a towel?
Many of us have the habit or experience of running on a treadmill. But when running, have you ever thought why you are hurting yourself like this! It may seem, not only exercise, it is a very unique way to punish yourself! If so, then there is not much absurdity in thinking that. Because the story of the beginning of the treadmill is associated with a cruel history, which was used to torture and punish people. Today’s event is about the story of the beginning of the treadmill and that dark chapter. Besides, we will try to know how this modern treadmill came about today.
The start of the treadmill is for punishment
Treadmills, the king of today’s exercise machines at home or in the gymnasium, were not originally intended for exercise, but as a means of punishing inmates. Although the treadmills of that time were not as advanced or made with sophisticated technology as they are now.
Let us now go back to the pre-Victorian period of the early 19th century when English prisons were unbelievably poorly run. The measures of execution or deportation were all at the discretion of the authorities. And the prisoners were kept alone day after day in filthy prisons, where loneliness settled upon them. But social and religious institutions and even a popular writer like Charles Dickens raised protests against such anti-humanity. Their aim was to give the inmates a chance to rehabilitate. Their protest was successful and the prisons were given new rules and opportunities to reform the prisoners. Punishment is administered through the treadmill for correction. And today’s treadmill starts from here.
Source: Trip Advisor
British engineer Sir William Cubitt invented this treadmill in 1818 , which was well received in British prisons at that time. Even then, no one thought that one day people would voluntarily exercise by using this device. At that time the machine was better known as ‘ treadwheel ‘. Others called it ‘ Everlasting Staircase’ . Being the son of a mill worker, Cubitt knew how factory mills worked, and he designed the treadmill based on those plans. The machine revolved along a horizontal axis, and many people walked together on it. The device he invented had 24 steps that worked like pedals. As a result the wheel kept spinning as the prisoners walked on it. No one could have stopped. Everyone had to walk in unison or fall.
How long can you run continuously on the treadmill? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Or more than 1 hour? No matter how long you can run, anyone can imagine the pain of running for more than 6 hours straight. At that time prisoners had to run not for 1 hour or 2 hours, but at least 6 hours continuously daily, sometimes more. It is said that sometimes they were subjected to this strange punishment for five days a week, sometimes for the whole week. And the prison police always kept a close watch for their observation. There was no chance of escape.
Source: Stephens English
But punishment was not the only purpose , the rotation of the treadwheel was harnessed as a gear to draw water, break wheat or power a power-mill. And since power-mills are more used for the purpose of providing energy, it is named treadmill by adding the word mill to tread. It can be said that the British government was getting a lot of profit by getting punishment from one side and other side by supplying energy to wind mills and other works. And it contributed a lot to redress the losses of the Napoleonic wars. Killing many birds with one stone by turning the prisoners into birds was going well from all sides.
William Cubitt; Source: Wikimedia Commons
Considering the walking distance, each prisoner covered 5,000-14,000 feet per day . 14,000 feet means 4,267 meters. Can you say the height of Mount Everest? Everest is twice as high as the prisoners used to walk on the treadmill. Now imagine if the prisoners would conquer Everest in 2 days! Think how painful it must be to suffer such torture day after day with little food to keep them alive. Sometimes the prisoners even sought death penalty from it. Not only this, the prisoners’ treadmills were divided like cells. As a result one could not even see each other. Not only the strength it required, but patience must not be lacking in this punishment. Such boredom and weariness day after day would push any man to rebellion without hesitation.
Source: Business Insider
Within a decade of Cubit’s discovery, it spread throughout the British Empire and America. Treadmills are installed in about 50 English prisons. And it began to be practiced in a small number of prisons in America. As a result, the prisoners started suffering from malnutrition and health problems. Many almost reached the brink of death. Even in such a situation, the prison guards did not pay any attention to them. In 1824, James Hardy, a New York jailer, credited the device with subduing the most rowdy inmates in his prison.
The first treadmill was installed in a jail in Bellevue County, New York in 1822. 32 convicts were simultaneously punished on that treadmill. And this cruelty ended at the end of the nineteenth century. By then, the prison’s treadmill or treadmill was the subject of considerable notoriety and criticism. Various newspapers and word of mouth spread about its cruelty. The use of treadmills was banned under the Prisons Act of 1898 for excessive cruelty.
Banned but not lost treadmill
Treadmills have been banned in prisons due to the cruelty of punishment, but the treadmill has not completely disappeared. Because a treadmill patent was registered in the United Kingdom in 1911 for human use of this device . And the target of this treadmill is not the inmates, but the common people.
The treadmill was re-introduced as an exercise machine in the mid-twenties. But running on a treadmill for exercise was just a luxury at that time. It was beyond the reach of the common people due to high prices. No one would think of running on a treadmill if they didn’t have a lot of money. Most treadmills available in the twenties had no motors. And the floor was wooden.
Treadmills of the 1920s; Source: reddit
Although some improvements were made in the 1930s, the use of motors had not yet begun. It was connected by fabric belt instead of wood.
In this journey of our running, let’s step towards the University of Washington. In 1952 international cardiologist Dr. Robert Bruce and his colleague Wayne Quinton remodeled a treadmill to diagnose heart and lung disease. Earlier there was no way to diagnose these diseases directly. In the 50s, there was no safe way to test and monitor cardiac function for practicing patients. So Dr. Bruce would attach ECG sensors to patients and tell them to run on a treadmill. And this is how it was tested. Medical treadmills are now used in hospitals, physical therapy clinics around the world.
Later in 1968 , mechanical engineer and fitness expert William Staub, Dr. He designed and invented the first treadmill for home use after reading a book on exercise and fitness by Kenneth H. Cooper called “Aerobics”. The treadmill he invented was called ‘Pacemaster-600’.
Pacemaster-600 with its manufacturers; Source: Tmall
Stubb noticed that there were no affordable treadmills for commercial use, so he decided to build his own. Cooper sent a prototype. And Dr. Cooper founded his own company, Aerobics Inc. And through this he opened the door of modern treadmill. Since the 1970s, its popularity has only continued to grow among bodybuilding enthusiasts.
Source: Life Span Fitness
You should feel pretty lucky when you get on the treadmill and run from now on. Because you can stop it and rest on your own, which nineteenth-century prisoners couldn’t. At the same time you are indebted to Sir William Cubitt and William Stubb for such a device as to preserve your health and bring so much convenience to running indoors.