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.
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.
How does your record on the treadmill compare?
Treadmills were a meaningless but extremely hard task
In the 19th century, prisoners sentenced to forced labor had to use the tape for at least 6 hours a day, the equivalent of climbing between 3,000 and 4,000 meters.
And sometimes much more.
The prisoners in Warwick Gaol walked an incredible 5,000 meters for 10 hours in a hot summer.
It was not long before some prison officials came up with the use of treadmills to feed water pumps and grind corn. In this way, the prisoners will be working for the benefit of society (albeit reluctantly).
The treadmill of Brixton Prison was one of the largest and most notorious of the time.
Also designed by William Cubitt, it was used to grind corn using underground machinery.
Up to 24 prisoners, working in silence, move from left to right so that the furthest man could take a break while a "rested" colleague climbs to the other side.
Thus, each one had about 12 minutes of rest for every 60 minutes of work.
Neither nice nor healthy
Not only were the prisoners isolated from each other and from their surroundings, but they easily burned more than 2,000 hot flashes during the workday, but even the "forced labor" prison rations could not be replaced.
As expected, the list of patients among those sentenced to forced labor in Brixton Prison often reached 20, to the frustration of officials.
The exhausting work led many to the grave.
Oscar Wilde, for example, walked through a tape in Pentonville prison after being sentenced in 1895 to forced labor for homosexuality, which at that time was a crime.
The experience almost kills him. I left prison in 1897 and died only two years later, at 46 years.
However, many of his contemporaries considered treadmills as a positive solution to the idleness of the prison.
An 1875 publication blamed them for "a great improvement in prison discipline," while the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline called them "preventive punishment."
It was thought that no one who had experienced the treadmill wanted to commit another crime.
Why use them?
Criminal treadmills were abolished in the United Kingdom in 1902.
Today, many are willing to pay hundreds of dollars a year for the privilege of using them.
For Vybarr Cregan-Reid that is a mystery: why, he wonders, would you rather look at your reflection in the gym mirror when you can be running outside?
"While some believe that running indoors is safer and more convenient, those who run on those tapes may miss all the physical, neurological and mental health benefits offered by the experience of moving through a real landscape," she said.
The dark past of the popular treadmills – LA NACION