With the current beauty standards that the slimmer the better, a lot of us force ourselves to hit the gym and run on treadmills in order to achieve better body shapes. Some of us may see running torturing but did you know that the origin of the treadmill is actually an execution device meant for torture in  jails during the Victorian era?

During the early 19th century, prisoners in the United Kingdom are caged in an unhygienic environment, bitterly waiting for their due dates of death penalties. With almost none human rights left for the prisoners, some religious groups worked together to fight for criminal justice. With the success of the movement, the prisoning system was reconstructed and that was when the treadmill was introduced as a new torture device!

In 1818, a prototype of the treadmill was invented by William Cubitt. It was a long roller, with 24 horizontal axes. This implementation of treadmill as a torture device kills two birds with one stone. Through stepping on the roller, prisoners were actually helping with water welling and grain milling. Prisoners suffer from physical exhaustion while working for the domestic growth for the country when running on the treadmill!

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▲The prototype of treadmill as a device to torture prisoners.

At that time, over 50 prisons in the United Kingdom adopted the use of treadmills and the authorities restricted the prisoners to run on the treadmill five times a week for at least six hours per session. The distance cumulated in running for a consecutive of six hours on the treadmill equals to the distance of half of mount Everest! To add on, the meals for prisoners are not adequate to compensate for the energy loss of prisoners in which lead to several salubrious issues of the prisoners. 

In 1911, a patent was registered for treadmills. However, they were not served as torture devices anymore. They were also reshaped as tracks that push forward the wheels, that simulates the action of walking on a flat surface, and it was later commercialized as a piece of gym equipment. 

1920s treadmill

In 1952, Dr. Robert Bruce, cardiologist in University of Washington, and Wayne Quinton, a developer of over 30 biomedical devices, introduced treadmill to the medical field. Bruce protocol was introduced to test the maximum capacity of one’s heart, and hence the Cardiorespiratory endurance.Bruce Protocol was widely accepted in the society later than and so as treadmills.

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▲Dr. Robert Bruce and data of his Bruce Protocol.

During 1960 to 1970, more and more people were aware of their health. Gymming had become a trend and there was a growing market demand for treadmills. With the advancements of technology, there had been modifications of designs and functions of treadmills. Some treadmills even go with LCD touch screen!

Do you still see running on treadmill torture nowadays or do you see it as entertainment?