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Treadmills Weren’t Always Used for Fitness

Although the treadmill has been the most popular piece of gym equipment since the 1970s when the late Dr. Kenneth Cooper urged people to start jogging, it wasn’t always an instrument of pleasure and fitness. In Victorian England, it was a form of punishment used to keep convicts out of trouble. This nasty device consisted of a large rotating paddlewheel wide enough to hold six prisoners, who were forced to march on it for up to six hours at a time. The circular motion meant that they were constantly climbing steps to keep from falling–and the machine had no safety switch if they fell. Today’s treadmills are far more civilized and people run and walk on them so they can be healthier and better looking. Few of them are aware of the treadmill’s sordid past.