As reported by a USA Today story, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says emergency rooms treated close to 24,400 treadmill-related injuries last year. Their data also reveals 30 deaths from treadmill use spanning 2003 to 2012, a relatively low number. Yet, counting all exercise equipment – weights, pools, machines, elliptical, bikes, and more – nearly 460,000 people were sent to the hospital. Injuries included broken bones, abrasions, rectal bleeding, and chest pain-related issues. Heart problems are responsible for about 80 percent of sudden deaths, according to Dr. Robert Shesser, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Last week, David Goldberg suffered blunt head trauma while using a treadmill during a vacation in Mexico with his family. USA Today reports he had lost grip of the treadmill’s railings, fell backwards, and hit his head. His brother found Goldberg hours after the accident and he was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died.

Over 54 million Americans have gym memberships, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. America’s proclivity for exercise and health means more people hitting the treadmill, machines, and weights in an effort to improve their overall wellness. With that comes increased responsibility for health clubs to provide safe and operational equipment as well as valuable resources for their members’ safety and benefit.

One thing to consider is that while treadmill injuries do happen, we see many more injured pedestrians injured or killed on the road. Physician Ford Vox pointed out in a CNN opinion piece that working out on a treadmill is far likely to improve your health than harm it.  A pedestrian is killed in traffic every two hours in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, treadmill deaths average of three deaths per year.

If you do plan to hit the gym or use a treadmill, Active.com, an online community for people who want to learn about, share and ultimately participate in physical activities, shares 8 tips to avoiding injury while exercising:

  1. Visit a personal trainer or get a coach. If you don’t know how to start an exercise program or progress to that next level of anaerobic/aerobic exertion safely, this may be the best option.
  2. Warm Up. Warming the muscles increases circulation and your body’s core temperature. This also prepares you mentally for the workout ahead.
  3. Cross Train. Changing up the routine and engaging in different activities are your best way to not plateau with your workouts. Also, your body benefits from resting certain muscles groups and allowing time for recovering. Studies also show switching your routine revs up fat burning and metabolism.
  4. Be smart about your training. Just because you could do a specific exercise 10 or 20 years ago doesn’t mean you can exercise with the same speed and energy today. Be realistic about your training. “Too much, too soon” can be the number one reason why injuries occur. Gradually increase your time and intensity of your workouts to prevent nagging injuries.
  5. Wear proper workout attire. From worn shoes to loose clothing, attire plays a big role in safe workouts. Shoes meant for your body type, gait, and arch of your foot will help avoid improper movements to your body. Loose clothing helps avoid any unnecessary problems with machine-use.
  6. Eat a balanced diet and hydrate. What you eat and rink is just as important as your workout. Not only will carbohydrates give you energy for your workout, they will replenish those glycogen stores for your recovery and for the next workout. Protein after your workout is just as important as it helps repair muscles you broke down. Work with a sports nutritionist to understand when, how much, and what foods you should eat to keep you healthy and energize your workouts.
  7. Add strength training and core work to your routine. A strong, fit body is a great way to avoid injury – balancing your core and muscle strength will not let your body wear down, or compensate for being weak or light in certain areas.
  8. Listen to your body with rest and recovery. Your body gives you signals to let you know “Back off!” If the knee is feeling achy, your soreness lasts more than the recommended 24 – 48 hours, or you are just plain tired, then it is time to look over your routine. Rest days are just as important as gym days!