People love treadmills at the gym or to help them lose weight. However, it is hard to believe it was once a torture machine. Today, I’d like to talk about the violent history of the treadmill.

The treadmill was first invented in Rome and was used as a crane for construction. The machines  were powered by POWs, slaves, or prisoners. Many would die by falling from the crane and these workers weren’t paid nor were they given enough to eat. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, this type of treadmill was no longer used, until the middle ages, where these cranes were used to build castle walls and were still human-powered. Eventually, these cranes were used throughout Europe and took countless lives of prisoners and slaves. Many famous buildings were constructed this way, such as the Collosseum, which was built with 2-3 cranes.Workers walked hundreds of miles each day on the treadmill, and soldiers would whip these men when they tried getting off Most of them were unable to live a long or sustainable life, and died by lack of nutrition.

Prison in Gloucester (treadmills)

Treadmills were also used in prisons during the 1800s-1900s. In the early 1800s, Sir William Cubbit introduced treadmills, on the premise that they  getprisoners into shape. Also,  these treadmills, used in cells, provided energy for the factories and windmills of the first Industrial revolution. These machines were  said to give economic benfits for government and society and make the criminals regret and admit their crimes. These convicts had to walk the equivalent of halfway up the Himalayan slopes each day. There were many casualties and deaths, and usually the deceased weren’t even able to have a proper grave. These terrible acts were stopped in the early 1900s due to the Prison Act.

When thinking about these pitiful prisoners and slaves used to build buildings and power up factories, we should be thankful to be able to work out not being threatened with death. Treadmills are still used, but as workout machines due to their comeback in a new incarnation in the 1950s by Robert Bruce and Wayne Quinton, and we are still running on the tracks where once slaves and prisoners had ran.