Treadmills for Kids?

Posted by Filed Under: Fun & Jokes

Despite the fact that companies have been making kid’s treadmills for over two years now, they have suddenly been thrust into the spotlight by news outlets and health savvy bloggers. The subject has been broached by The Boston Globe, London’s Daily Mail, ABC News, Runner’s World Daily, and Cranky Fitness to name a few, but we don’t consider the subject fully covered until we’ve weighed in on it here at Complete Running.

As you can imagine, the responses have ranged from labeling this the death of playtime to the answer to childhood obesity. My problem with kid’s treadmills is their sub-par features. Just take a look at some of the things that are missing:

  • There’s no safety key/kill switch.
  • There’s no incline/decline feature.
  • No memory to save workouts or allow multiple users to track their history.
  • No pre-programmed workouts (i.e. intervals, weight loss, fat burner).
  • No motor! It’s self-propelled. (Note: This might be why there is no safety key/kill switch.)
  • No cup holder. Are we trying to teach our children that you don’t need to hydrate?

On a more serious note, although admittedly not much more seriously, I think we need to realize that these treadmills for kids are toys. Kids like to play grown-up. No one was up in arms when Hasbro released the Easy-Bake Oven because no one suspected that parents were going to force their kids to cook their meals for them. No one reminded me of the child labor laws when I got my son a Playskool workbench. Kids like to pretend that they’re grown-ups and imitate what their parents do. My 5-year-old often grabs his plastic briefcase and pretends to leave for work, sometimes even he cries and curses under his breath just like his dear old Dad.

As far as I’m concerned, parents can continue to buy their children these kiddy treadmills because when it’s all said and done, they’re just toys and kids will use them as toys. If my kids are representative of the norm, and I like to think they are despite evidence to the contrary, then kids will run on the treadmill toy for 4 or 5 minutes, leave it somewhere that you can trip over it and then move on to the next toy. Using a treadmill for 5 minutes only when it strikes your fancy will not result in any kind of improved fitness. If it did, I’d be one of the fastest runners known to man.

Parents hoping for some kind of health benefit from the kid’s treadmill are going to be sorely disappointed. It’s not fun to run on a treadmill for any significant length of time, especially if you have the attention span of a child. (I do and this qualifies me to speak on this matter.) The only way that I can picture kids being interested in running on a treadmill is if they routinely watch one of their parents run on a treadmill, in which case you’ve already won half the battle—you’ve probably already set a healthy example for your kids and created an interest in running and exercise. Frankly, it’s time to stop worrying about what kind of example other people are setting for our children and start showing them a good example and teaching them to discern for themselves who are good role models and who are not. Buying a treadmill for your kids to encourage them to exercise is probably pretty pointless unless you plan on using a training plan and mandating that they run for a set amount of time or a set amount of miles, in which case buying a kid’s treadmill is the least of your worries because you’ve failed at parenting.

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About Ian

Hello, my name is Ian and I'm a runner. After several years of promising to train for and run the Bolder Boulder 10K I finally signed up for it in 2005 with zero training under my belt. Shocked that I was slower than I thought I should be, I made it my goal to be faster the following year. I'm still not as fast as I should be, but I have been a runner ever since. I believe in quality miles over quantity of miles. I believe that you have to run faster in order to run faster, and I believe that I can. I believe in the Garmin. I believe in motion control and that I have an unhealthy addiction to running shoes. I believe in carb loading and tapering, even before a 5K. I believe I’ll never need to buy another t-shirt ever again. I live to run and I run for the post race spread, where the free food and drink flows like milk and honey, and sometimes even includes milk and honey.

  1. Kristina Pinto on September 30th at 3:57 am

    No doubt the best thing you’ve written that I’ve read. Kids won’t like treadmills any more than we do (esp. if they don’t have motors) and will quickly ask to go outside to play tag, shoot hoops, or chase the dog (or squirrels, where I live). Nice work, Ian.

    Kristina Pintos last blog post..The Ice Woman Cometh

  2. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on September 30th at 6:38 am

    I can’t see a kid using one for any length of time unless it was set up next to a real treadmill and they were mimicking you, as you’ve noted. I wonder if anybody has any real experience with one of these things?

    As for a kill switch, I doubt there’s a need for one, it doesn’t look like there’s a motor.

    Blaine Moore (Run to Win)s last blog post..Haile Gebrselassie breaks 2 hours 4 minutes in the marathon!

  3. Beth on September 30th at 10:31 am

    Well said.

  4. Irene on September 30th at 2:10 pm

    I saw a kiddie treadmill in a store window last week and thought it was a goofy made up thing, just for the display. I didn’t realize it was a real thing until your article today. This never would have worked with my kids for the intended purpose. It would have ended up as place to line up and race Hotwheels cars. 😉

    Fun article, though!

    Irenes last blog post..Knocks Me Off My Feet

  5. Paul on September 30th at 3:44 pm

    Hilarious. I’ll look forward to reading your reviews so I know which one to invest in for my 2-month old (as soon as he can walk anyway). 😉

    Pauls last blog post..5K down, half marathon to go

  6. Audrey on October 1st at 4:51 am

    If it was more affordable for people to work less and be home with their children more, then they could all go for an afternoon walk or a game of footy at the park. We wouldn’t need kiddie treadmills or government committees on childhood obesity. It reminds me of that kiddie bicycle that links up to your television so a child can ride and avoid obstacles on the screen, like a computer game. Why not just take your child out for a real bike ride and see the birds and feel the breeze.
    Stepping off my soapbox now.

    Audreys last blog post..My Achievements

  7. Merry on October 5th at 6:26 pm

    Is it being ‘sold’ to parents as child exercise equipment? I don’t hear people saying ‘oh what a cute idea,’ which was the comment of some parents re the Easy Bake Oven.
    And no cup holder? That’s inhumane!

    Merrys last blog post..Bright Shiny Distraction Post!

  8. Sandra on November 6th at 7:45 pm

    Where can you actually BUY this thing? I’ve seen them for about $100, but then I read on a blog that some lady bought it new for $40. My son is on the autism spectrum and has a lot of sensory issues, and a kiddie treadmill would be absolutely PERFECT for a kid like him! Thanks!

  9. Jana on November 14th at 5:55 am

    During the cooler months, my husband and I run on our treadmill daily, and we alternate running outside with the whole family and running on the treadmill inside during the warmer months. Because of this, our two kiddos love running (or at least the idea of it = ]). They used to beg to be allowed on our big treadmill. However, since they are 3 and 5, our treadmill would not be safe for them. Because of this, I was thrilled to find the kiddie treadmill! Now the kids have their own treadmill right next to Mom & Dad’s, and they love hopping on and walking or jogging for a few minutes at a time…usually when a parent is jogging on the big treadmill. Granted, it’s not really exercise since they tend to only go for a bit, but that’s ok because they get plenty of exercise running or riding their bikes outside. They’re just playing pretend with their treadmill. They love it, and it keeps them from trying to hop on Mom & Dad’s treadmill.

  10. Uma Best on March 6th at 3:36 pm

    Good info, very informative, I will take this rss feed for sure,thx!

  11. Luis on November 18th at 2:04 am

    Never in a million years would I let my kid on a treadmill. Even if it was considered safe. Once they’re a teenager and are in school sports then o.k. but as a child never. Exercise for kids should be on the playground not on a treadmill.
    .-= Luis´s last blog ..Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill (Sports) tagged "treadmill" 54 times =-.

  12. anita on October 6th at 6:47 am

    The idea of a kiddie treadmill as true exercise equipment is a joke. Kids that young do not have the attention span for sustained activity. I do think that it does send them a message especially if you are setting the example. I agree that children will try to get on the adult machine ( daughter did it with grave results) and having their own may stop them from being hurt. they will also get the idea that exercise is a good thing(hopefully) because no matter how it has occurred childhood obesity is a problem. The schools are removing physical education and all the games we new as Kids on the playground are being banned. So what is a parent to do.
    .-= anita´s last blog ..How to acquire Seo Services =-.