Is Treadmill Calorie Burn Affected by Holding the Handrails?


Are you a treadmill slacker or lean-backer?

You know the drill: hit the gym, log a couple miles on the treadmill, then check "cardio" off your to-do list for the day. And you don’t waste your time walking at an incline and holding on to the handrails, since that’s cheating, right? Well… not so fast!

In a 2014 study conducted by Cybex and researchers at the University of Massachusetts—Lowell and published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, factors like incline, posture and handrail use all impacted calorie burning power for treadmill users. The results may surprise you.

Here's what the data revealed:

  • Walking at a 10% incline and using the handrails burns about the same calories as walking at a 5% incline without using the handrails.
  • If you use the handrails to lean backward while walking, the calorie burn of your workout is reduced by 31.8%. Despite this, it feels like more work to hold the handrails and lean back at a higher incline, even though you're burning fewer calories. Listen to what your mother told you as a child and "stand up straight!"
  • Remaining upright and using the handrails while inclined is an alternative that does not reduce the calorie burn of the workout as drastically as leaning back. It's the leaning back that throws off calorie burn.

So what's the smartest treadmill position?

  • Walk at the highest incline that you can comfortably maintain without holding on, OR...
  • If you feel more comfortable holding on, ensure that you keep an upright posture and don’t lean back!

Take a closer look at the details of the Treadmill Study, the biomechanics behind Cybex Treadmills and our patented ARMZ stabilizers, which provide multiple options to hold on and remain upright. And remember, you don't necessarily have to go hands-free to get a solid treadmill workout.

Now that you're in the know about the effect of holding on to handrails on your workout, debunk the myths of treadmill training and improve your running with a few simple tips


Train to Be A Better Runner

No matter where your starting line is, the Cybex Workout Center can push you past your limits to be your best. Run faster. Run farther. Run with less risk of injury. Free workouts organized by goal are yours for the taking.



Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. As always, be sure to consult a physician if you are unsure of your individual exercise readiness or have a pre-existing medical condition. While these programs offer great benefits, there are many considerations that should be weighed before attempting any type of physical activity.

Comments (2) -

  • Nathaniel Fried

    7/23/2016 12:32:33 PM |

    I have always wondered if holding the handrails had an effect on the number of calories. Personally I never have, but after reading this post I might start, I also might start using more of an incline. I actually was wondering if you had any advice on buying a treadmill? I bought one using this guide but it was quite pricey and now I want one for my daughter, have you any suggestions?

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