The Tortuous History of the Treadmill


Did you know that the Treadmill was once a form of torture?

In the early 1800s, an English Civil Engineer named Sir William Cubitt devised the World’s first treadmill as a means of punishing and reforming England’s prisoners. Disgusted by the idleness of the prisoners at St. Edmond’s Gaol in Bury, Cubitt believed that hard exercise would help whip convicts into shape.

The typical Cubitt treadmill rotated around a horizontal axis, requiring the prisoner to step upwards. The easiest way to imagine what this would be like is to hop on a stepper for an hour. Now while the time prisoners spent on the treadmill varied, it’s said that six or more hours a day was the average. This is the equivalent of climbing anywhere from 5,000 to 14,000 feet. To put that into context, 14,000 feet would bring you to about the halfway point of Mount Everest.
Remarkably, the treadmill lasted in England until the late 19th century when it was eventually banned for being excessively cruel!
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