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Has Running on the Treadmill Always Been a Popular Way to Exercise?

Treadmills are one of the most popular types of exercise equipment today. Sales in the United States have grown steadily since 2009 and the annual sale of treadmills surpassed $1 million USD in 2014. But has walking and running on the treadmill always been a trendy way to exercise? Not at all. The preferred choice for voluntary exercise today was once a punishment imposed on prisoners. In the 19th century, British and American prisons introduced the treadmill as a method to punish "idle" inmates. Invented as both a punishment and a reform method for convicts, the penal treadmill of the 19th century was a massive machine composed of moving stairs. Around a dozen inmates could climb at the same time and the punishment went on for hours every day, with only a few minutes of rest in between.

The long walk to reform:

  • Initially not of any practical use besides punishment, penal treadmills were later used to grind grain or power water pumps.

  • Oscar Wilde was required to walk the treadmill during his sentence at Pentonville Prison.

  • Penal treadmills were abolished in Britain in 1902 when they were deemed to be too cruel of a punishment.

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More Info: BBC

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