Spacing of Fitness Equipment

In light of a recent tripping accident at one of our facilities, it is important to ensure that that the placement and set up of your workout area is as safe as possible. The death of pro boxer Mike Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter in 2009 caused an increased awareness of treadmill safety. Similar to any other type of machinery, treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bicycles can be dangerous if appropriate safety precautions are not taken.

Dismounting exercise equipment should be done carefully seeing as how the user can become dizzy or disoriented during their exercise, especially in instances of overexertion. To best prevent a trip or fall during this transition, it is important to keep a certain amount of space around the equipment clear of any other objects. The Redwoods Group typically advocates following manufacturer’s recommendations, but older owner’s manuals may not have up to date information. According to the American Society for Testing and Materials, the best guidelines to follow for the spacing of your treadmills are:

  • 19.7 inches of clearance on each side of the treadmill
  • 39 inches of clearance behind the back of the treadmill

Remember that the more space around this equipment the better. The provided measurements are the minimum clearance required for access to, passage around, and emergency dismount from the treadmill. Ensuring that your workout area is free of clutter and not too crowded is your best insurance against someone in your facility getting injured.

Some additional tips for the safest use of treadmills:

  • Only get on and off of the treadmill while the belt is at a completely stopped speed.
  • Feel free to use the emergency stop button and/or attach the emergency stop magnet to yourself.
  • Keep your eyes forward. Looking at your feet can cause you to become disoriented.
  • Use appropriate clothing and footwear. Shoelaces can become a great hazard in this scenario!
  • Start the treadmill while straddling the belt. Once it is at a slow, comfortable speed then step onto the belt while holding the handrails.

COVID-19 Considerations 
With current COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, we suggest following the CDC’s guidance to modify or adjust cardio equipment, free weight areas, weight training equipment, and fitness classrooms to maintain social distancing of at least six feet between patrons and employees. Below are some additional considerations: 

  • If rearranging equipment is not an option for your facility, place “do not use” signage and turn off/unplug select equipment to allow for proper social distancing.
  • For fitness classes, reduce capacity according to local regulations and consider placing markers on the floor with tape, chalk, etc. to mark each user’s space.
  • When you are moving equipment, you may create new hazards that were not there before. Keep in mind cord management and maintain a clear path for users to walk through.
  • Maintain access to any emergency exits and be careful not to block access to any exits or other walkways.