Tips for Treadmill Training at Home
To implement the treadmill training at home, locate a bench
that can straddle the treadmill. Sit on the bench and hold your infant
under their arms so they are facing you with their feet on the belt.
It is important to try to keep your elbows on your knees or thighs while
you are supporting the infant to help reduce the strain on your back
caused by the infant's body weight (see the attached picture below).
If your elbows hurt your thighs, place a towel under your elbows. As
the treadmill belt moves away from the holder, pulling the infant's
legs back, the infant should take an occasional step. In the event that
no steps are taken, reposition the infant's feet to the front of the belt
while trying to keep your elbows in contact with your knees or thighs. It
is the backward movement of the belt that appears to stimulate the
stretching of the infant's leg muscles, causing a spring- like step
The first month or so tends to be the most frustrating
if the infant is not taking any steps. All of our infants in the study,
however, did begin to improve their stepping performance over the first
6 weeks, with further improvement demonstrated once they were able to
support their weight on their feet.
It is important to try to keep the child looking forward
as much as possible to stimulate the conditions of independent walking.
Frequently, parents have worn a cap with a small toy attached to the
visor by Velcro to stimulate the infant to reach for the toy and to serve
as a distraction, keeping them from watching their feet while on the
treadmill. Some parents have also placed the treadmill in front of the
television and played a child's video tape, which can be seen over the
parent's shoulders. Singing and talking to the infant is another way
to entertain the infant during the exercise sessions.
Particular behaviors, both positive and negative, can be
reinforced during the treadmill training. Rewarding the child by
cheering and clapping between exercise sessions for the stepping
performed on the treadmill is a great way to promote this behavior.
Furthermore, because of the one on one contact you have with your child,
this is a great time to reinforce their speech attempts. Inquire from a
speech therapist about particular exercises that can be performed during
the exercise sessions. Conversely, it is important not to reinforce
behavior that impedes stepping on the treadmill. One such behavior is
holding the feet off up off the belt. Children also quickly learn that
they do not have to exercise if they are taken off the treadmill as soon
as they begin to fuss. Assuming you know that you are not hurting the
infant, taking the infant off the treadmill before they get fussy or
after they settle down a bit deters this learned behavior.
As the child increases the number of steps they take to
30-40 per minute or more, begin to reduce the amount of physical support
you give them. At some point, you should be able to hold them by their
upper arms. Eventually, many parents progressed to the point of holding
them by their 2 hands and then by one hand. By this time they should be
walking on the floor while holding onto your hands. This activity is as
good as the treadmill exercise and often is better since they will be
more motivated to move around the room with your help.