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The dark past of the popular treadmills


Today they are not only in gyms but in some houses

It is one of the most popular and most sold pieces of exercise equipment, adored by gym enthusiasts around the world for its comfort and safety.

However, in its long history, there is a surprisingly disturbing period.

The association of the treadmill with work is longstanding.

There is evidence from thousands of years ago of models propelled by animals and humans that were used to lift heavy loads.

But, by far, the darkest chapter of its history came in the 19th century, when it was among the cruelest forms of punishment available.

If you think your first day at the gym was disastrous, wait until you read this.

Without sense


Sir William Cubitt (1785-1861) not only invented these treadmills, he was also the creator of self-regulated windmill sails in 1807 and built the Oxford and Liverpool Junction canals and the docks at Cardiff and Middlesborough

Sir William Cubitt (1785-1861) not only invented these treadmills, he was also the creator of self-regulated windmill sails in 1807 and built the Oxford and Liverpool Junction canals and the docks at Cardiff and Middlesborough

In 1817, an engineer named William Cubitt was inspired to see the prisoners sitting inactive to create a new machine.

He thought that his invention, the "treadmill", could "reform criminals by teaching them hard work habits."

Cubitt may have come from a family of mill builders, but his invention was designed to "grind air" instead of corn, with the resistance provided by a weight system.

The 19th-century criminal treadmills resemble large, wide wheels equipped with steps.

Prisoners sentenced to "forced labor" had to climb steps repeatedly, spinning the entire wheel.

They had hand bars for support, and most were large enough to allow several men to use them at once.

Some, such as the treadmill in the Vagrants prison in Coldbath Fields, were equipped with partitions so that the prisoners were isolated and could only see the wall in front of them.

The criminal treadmill was considered "the perfect punishment" according to the standards of the time, as explained by the academic and writer
Vybarr Cregan-Reid to the BBC.

The reason? The work that the prisoners were doing was "literally meaningless" and a useless but exhausting task that conformed to Victorian ideals about the atonement achieved through hard work.