When Was The First Treadmill Invented?


This article is all about the history of treadmill. Let’s check out when was the treadmill invented & how it was developed.

The treadmill is possibly the most popular cardio machine you can find in a health club, gym, or recreation center.

While it is loved and hated, it can be an integral part of the workout program for many people who usually exercise regularly or even rarely.

One of the available reasons is that there are often more treadmills in the fitness environment than other types of machines. The entry barrier becomes low and easy to use it to become high.

It is such a popular machine that there’s no shortage of treadmill-centric group classes like Equinox, Barry’s Bootcamp, 1Rebel, and more.

In America, boutique management studios have started to pop up like in New York, called Mile High Run Club, and in Philadelphia, a name by Incline Running.

The recent data has shown that the global market for fitness equipment (including all types of machinery and equipment) is currently £7 billion and could reach £11 billion by 2022.

According to the US reports, the treadmill is the most popular CV equipment, which is currently in the market today. Therefore, the treadmill is the widely and the popular equipment used, but its sale is causing change around the world.

The first US patent for a treadmill “training machine” (#1,064,968) was issued on June 17, 1913. The forerunner of the exercise treadmill was designed to diagnose heart and lung diseases, and was invented by Robert Bruce and Wayne Quinton at the University of Washington in 1952. Source- Wikipedia

The History and Development of the Treadmill

Ancient Origin

It can be a surprise, but the treadmill’s origins are not based on any form of sports or leisure exercise. Actually, it has evolved from the world of construction and engineering. Throughout history, the treadmill has maintained a strong connection with manual labor in most of its iterations.

The Romans used the precursor in the first century AD to the treadmill called polyspaston or treadwheel crane, whereas Latin is hoisting tackle pulley. This human-made device was a large wheel that was attached to the crane. Instead of the traditional winch, men would endlessly talk about it to place it within the sizeable hamster-like bicycle.

Any other wheel movement would cause the crane, which is attached to lift weighty objects. Because of the actual diameter of a wheel, the treadwheel crane’s lifting capacity was approximately 60 times more effective than purely artificial construction methods used previously by the early Egyptians to build pyramids. It was indeed a technical feat.

Other Applications

Although the tread-wheel powered by man remained to be the central part of the machinery until the 13th century, the factor’s form still resembles that of the waterwheel closely.

During the 19th century, the horses were placed on the treadmills to work with the stationary machines, whereas renewable energy sources such as water and wind were not available. On rare occasions, the boats were powered by the horse treadmills, especially in the United States on the east coast. This reiteration of the treadmill included the horizontal belt, which closely resembles the models known today.


After sometimes the treadmill was adapted for everyday household use in the early 19th century. The smaller versions for sheep, goats, and dogs were designed for grindstones, butter churns, cream separators, and fanning mills.

The Prison Treadmill

The next major iteration in the treadmill design that took place in 1817 is perhaps the best-known application to date. Engineer Sir William Cubitt created the “treadmill” after being inspired and seeing the apparent prisoners’ idleness in the 19th century.

The prison treadmill

Despite the name, this machine resembles more like a modern StairMaster than a treadmill, which is known today. However, Sir William views this new invention as a way of reforming offenders and giving them a real work taste.

These penal treadmills looked like the treadwheels because they had big wheels. Sir Williams’s design involved a series of fitted steps to the outside rather than someone operating from inside. Most of the prisoners climbed and clung to hang the stairs that would turn a wheel. Since the treadmill was individually-propelled, the wheel would move while more than one prisoner was still climbing.

Although Sir William came from a millwrights’ family, the prisoners’ work was to operate a treadmill that contributed to nothing. Even though the United States strongly recommended chain gangs to do the available manual labor, the British prisons only used the treadmill to punish and prevent the prisoners from committing crimes again, even if the previous was the primary function.

The prisoners typically walked about six hours a day, climbing to about 14,000 vertical ft. and effortlessly burning 2,000 and more calories. The most extended stints that were documented occurred at Warwick Gaol, where the prisoners climbed a total of 17,000 vertical ft. in 10 hours, which is 13 times the size of climbing the Empire State Building.

Over time, Sir William designed the penal treadmill version that could be used to pump the grinding corn and water. However, it was still a difficult and physically demanding task for prisoners. Eventually, the treadmill stopped in 1902, and with it, the current treadmill slowly took shape.

The Development of the 20th Century

Claude Lauraine Hagen registered the US patent for a “training machine” in 1911, which features the treadmill belt. Finally, the patent was granted in 1913, which is now surprisingly detailed and forward-thinking.

For instance, Hagen foresaw his machine as the one with the ability to fold up, which would be easier to transport. He included the users who have different heights incorporating movable side rails and also applying more determinations to reduce the noise of a machine by placing four external posts to raise the belt significantly off the ground. Also, this made it possible to adjust the Incline.

The evidence, which Hagen made this design in a functional prototype is challenging to come by, but it’s a patent cited to this day in the modern designs and patents of the treadmills. In the 1920s and 1930s, treadmill models that were operated manually came to the fore.

They had no motor and needed the user to move the wooden slats manually to create momentum, very different from the constant elastic belt used today.

Cardiologist Dr. Robert A. Bruce co-invented the first motorized in 1952, who dubbed the exercise cardiology father. It was then used to diagnose lung and heart diseases and conditions. Dr. Bruce attained this with the cardiac stress test, which is now called the Bruce Protocol.

The patients were connected to the EKG (electrocardiograph machine) while running and walking. Every few minutes, speed and Incline increased, Dr. Bruce and his research partner Wayne Quinton determined whether and where abnormalities were occurring in the heart and lungs.

Before this test, the patients could be checked using the EKG while resting or lying down. A Master’s two-step test was another option. This was named later in 1935 after cardiologist Arthur M. Master, where the patients could receive the ECG measurements taken at rest and another after stepping off and on a small platform.

The proof was unreliable because many patients found that it was a very difficult task to complete. The treadmill’s accessibility and precise ability to control Incline and speed make it easy to see how it became the norm for the Bruce Protocol.

Commercial Viability

In the late 1960s, the first world mass-produced home treadmill was introduced, invented by William Staub, a mechanical engineer. He was inspired by aerobics, a book by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the former Air Force colonel. This book by Dr. Cooper’s used a point-based system to improve and measure cardiovascular Fitness.

To combat sedentary inactivity and behavior, he also advocated running for a minimum of eight minutes a day and five times a week.

Staub built the PaceMaster 600, a prototype treadmill, and sent for approval by Dr. Cooper. After seeing an immense treadmill possibility in the home. Dr. Cooper promised to finance the machine via his Aerobics Inc. Company, which in turn assisted Staub to find several audiences.

In the 1980s, the Aerobics Inc. Company sold 2,000 treadmills per year, and the sales reached 35,000 units per year in the mid-1990s. Innovations in treadmill technology continued steadily, but the emphasis had shifted towards ease of use and comfort.

In 1991, Life Fitness, one of the world’s most popular fitness equipment brands, produced its first stationary-focused treadmill in several decades. The 9500HR had a proprietary shock absorption system, and after a week of installation, it had taken Life Fitness into a whole new market.

Modern and Look to the Future

Since the necessary technology behind the treadmill has not changed dramatically in recent times, maybe the most significant advancements could have been from additional features.


Life Fitness first introduced the touchscreen treadmill console in 1991, then added iPhone or iPod connectivity. Many other big brands are pushing the envelope regarding built-in TVs, integrated technology, seamless smart device connectivity, custom exercise, and virtual race experiences plans based on the length and cadence of the user’s stride.

Today, innovators, researchers, and companies seem to gradually focus on additional features and improvements instead of wholesale changes in the function and form factor of the treadmill.

Ohio State University researchers have developed the treadmill, which automatically adjusts the speed based on the runner’s location. Sonar, a treadmill, first detects the belt of the runner. If the runner has moved forward, there would be an increase in speed. As predicted, if they move back, their speed would drop as expected. With the prototype now finished, the associate Professor named Steven Devor hopes to release this product.

Perhaps Peloton, which is a home fitness start-up company, will be on the side of an innovation scale, which, after more investment, is worth more than $1 billion. There before, Peloton had launched the internet-connected spin bike, which cost about $2,000. At the recent CES (formerly known as Consumer Electronics Show), they disclosed their latest creation, a Peloton Tread of $ 3,995 treadmill.

As high as the price can be, a Tread boasts of a slat running belt, 32-inch screen, and surround sound, which is close to Apple Mac. The hook of the Tread is that a treadmill is only one part of the full-body workout experience. This is guided by the bespoke exercise classes, which are streamed to a screen. Typically, the exercise participant can begin sprints or jogging on a treadmill and then go to the exercise mat for resistance or bodyweight exercise.

At about $4,000, it is not designed for mainstream house use, but that does not mean the existing companies could not produce something similar. This can be something more affordable and maybe even better in the future.

The Conclusion

From one form to the other, the Roman treadwheel has evolved to a penal treadmill, where the treadmill has been there since the first century. Typically, this gym staple has changed from being a construction tool, a punishment method, a medical apparatus to a workout tool for everyone we love, hate, and know.

Innovations in the modern treadmills have focused more on improving quality of life and less on the wholesale form factor. It is unclear whether there can be more design shifts, which are significant for a treadmill, though one thing is assured. The multi-row treadmills arrangements in the health clubs and gyms worldwide are not expected to change anytime soon.