Cardio is an important component of healthy living -- it helps increase energy expenditure, improves stamina, and supports cardiovascular function. Walking, jogging, and sprinting on a treadmill is a decades-old way to get in your weekly cardio. While it’s effective, improvements have been made in the area of cardio equipment, particularly in the realm of treadmills.
Today, we highlight the benefits of curved treadmills -- what they are, how they improve biomechanics, and ultimately deliver greater results that are also better for your joints!
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Curved Treadmill?
As its name indicates, a curved treadmill is curved. It’s not flat like a conventional, “old school” treadmill.” However, the shape of the treadmill isn’t the only difference between the two. Curved treadmills are NOT powered by electricity (as is the case with regular treadmills)...they’re human-powered, which means they only move if you put in the effort. This means more intense workouts, greater calorie-burning and better results over the long-term!
What Are the Benefits of Curved Treadmills?
Better for Joint Health
Running on hard, flat surfaces isn’t the most friendly thing for your lower body joints (hips, knees, ankles, etc.). A curved treadmill offers a more joint-friendly option that more closely aligns to the natural gait of the human body. The curved geometry of the treadmill also reduces the shock forces applied to your joints allowing you to train for longer durations or higher intensities compared to training on flat treadmills (or hard, uneven roads).
Engages More Muscle Groups
Since most curved treadmills only move if you put in the effort, that means more muscle groups will be activated and recruited. This inevitably leads to greater ATP production, energy expenditure, and calorie burning.
Conventional treadmills do most of the work since they’re powered by electricity, which reduces muscle activation (and calorie burning). Curved treadmills force your lower body muscles (hips, glutes, hamstrings, and calves) to power the treadmill from the get-go!
Enhances Calorie Burning
As mentioned above, curved treadmills (typically) are not powered by electricity -- that means the belt is only going to move if you make it move…with your muscles. The more effort you put in, the faster the curved treadmill moves, which ramps up calorie burning!
In fact, research demonstrates that using a curved treadmill results in greater feelings of exertion compared to conventional (motorized) treadmills).
Drawbacks of Curved Treadmills
As with everything in life, there are drawbacks that accompany benefits. With regard to curved treadmills, they are great for sprinting as well as interval training (or even walking). However, there is a bit of a learning curve (pun intended). Walking on a curved treadmill can impact your gait (normal walking/running habit) that you’ve developed over the years of walking on flat streets/conventional (motorized) treadmills.
Additionally, accelerating on a curved treadmill can be difficult, which means that you may need to work on your walking/running technique during the first few times you use a curved treadmill. Lastly, if you’re a competitive athlete that trains on flat ground (such as a track athlete), training on a curved treadmill may not be optimal for your training. But, if you’re a casual fitness enthusiast, physique competitor, CrossFit athlete, etc., then trying a curved treadmill could offer other benefits to your training program.
Should I Try Curved Treadmills?
This ultimately depends on what your particular goal is when investigating what is the difference between running on a curved treadmill, on the flat earth or a conventional treadmill. Training goals, personal preferences, anthropometry, injury history, competition requirements, etc. all play a role in what type of training and equipment you include in your training.
For the casual fitness enthusiast/gym rat, a curved treadmill offers another tool in the ever-expanding toolbox of equipment options to help everyday individuals and athletes improve their fitness, building cardiovascular fitness, and obtain better results be it on the field, in the gym, or during a transformation challenge.
- Smoliga, J. M., Hegedus, E. J., & Ford, K. R. (2015). Increased physiologic intensity during walking and running on a non-motorized, curved treadmill. Physical Therapy in Sport, 16(3), 262–267. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2014.09.001